Dr Sarah Fitzgibbon, Founder of Women in Medicine in Ireland Network
Please tell us a little about yourself and your role as an Irish GP?
I have been a GP in Cork since 2005, and enjoyed being a Partner in a group practice on the Northside of the city for many years.
In 2021 I reduced my clinical commitments and now I work one day per week in a busy urban practice. My main work currently is as the Primary Care Clinical Advisor to CervicalCheck, the national cervical screening programme.
What was your motivation for founding Women in Medicine in Ireland Network?
In late 2017 I became aware of the Medical Women’s Federation 100th anniversary. This is British organisation for female doctors and medical students which was formed in the early part of the 20th century, when female doctors were just beginning to qualify and treat patients.
It struck me that we had nothing similar in Ireland to support and encourage female medics here, so I put the question out on Twitter as to whether my colleagues felt there was a need for such a group.
The answer was a resounding yes, and I set up the network in January 2018.
Why is it so important to develop a diverse network?
Our world is full of individuals with their own stories and experiences. Everyone has something unique to bring to the conversation.
Medicine has been a very elitist profession for many years, and doctors traditionally were a homogenous group of mostly male, mostly white and mostly wealthy people.
Our patients, however, came from every background. In order to give the best care that we can, we need to develop our knowledge about all the ways that people live their lives.
Having a diverse network of women means we can share our expertise and values.
What does diversity, equity and inclusion mean to you and why is it so important?
Each person needs to be respected and valued for their own perspective. Learning from others is the best way to open our minds to new ideas and ambitions.
We know that people who have experienced exclusion, marginalisation or prejudice will often suffer both psychologically and physically as a result, and we as healthcare practitioners need to be aware of these additional burdens.
Equity is not about every receiving the same care, it is about tailoring care to meet a person’s individual needs. A person also needs to know that they are welcome and that they belong.
How can women support other women in their organisations?
By encouraging and promoting each other, acknowledging their unique achievements and valuing their individual contributions.
We are living in a society that has imposed certain damaging stereotypes and expectations on women, and we need to support each to break free from those restrictions. It can be difficult to unlearn the unconscious biases that have been surrounding us all our lives, but by drawing attention to them we can raise awareness and fight prejudice.
Any final thoughts?
In my younger years, it didn’t dawn on me that the world was an unequal place.
Since I started opening my eyes to gender discrimination, it has helped me to realise the importance of intersectionality and the layering of additional barriers that people face if they have multiple factors of disadvantage.
I have been able to acknowledge my own privilege and try to work towards becoming more of an ally to others.