For International Women's Day this year, we wanted to speak with a fabulous woman that has really inspired the CRU team. Welcome, Jan Wong, an NHS hero that first met the CRU team during the NHS coffee product drop we did for frontline workers when Covid'19 first hit. Jan comes in the form of an NHS Hero (even though she hates being called a hero)! and when we first approached her to do the interview, her first reply was, 'I am really not inspirational, but yes I will do it.' We felt this was just the confirmation we needed, and that is nothing less than exceptional...
Do you think there are gender stereotypes in your profession?
"On a day-to-day basis, I get more gender stereotypes by the public than my colleagues. On labour ward, I’ll be mistaken as a midwife. There were times I turned up to emergencies and colleagues elect to speak to my taller male (more junior) colleague than me. Fortunately this gets rarer by the day."
“Anaesthetic as a profession is becoming more gender-equal in numbers, day by day, but there is still a long way to go.”
In what ways do you choose to challenge any bias and inequality in the workplace?
“Recognising our own privilege and being able to empathise is a good starting point. Mindset is also key. Put me in another country, I’ll be described as a ‘leftover woman’ always subject to racist, sexist comments. But I see it as I’m an unhinged woman with good health and career.
"Yes, there needs to be a change in society, but it starts from within. You recognise your worth, then you can sort the others bit by bit."
Then we need to lift others up. I must say I’m more vocal when it happens to my junior, suppose that’s my inner ‘protector’. It’s also because when I was a 2nd year doctor, one of the patients asked to be treated by a male doctor, interspersed with some racist and demeaning comments. My senior happened to be a male and went along and told him to behave himself. That was done well so I think I owe it to my juniors to stand up for them.
Going further, as women, we should also look after one another. Jacinda Arden took her child to UN conference. Most of the countries with female leaders had done significantly better than the countries led by men. These are times we need to celebrate with one another. That’s how we channel our voice. Better together!"
What has been the hardest part of the last year?
"Adjustment. I’ve just come back from a 6-month leadership fellowship in South Africa in February 2020. I had a new job with increasing responsibility. My parents, whom I’ve not lived with for a decade, had recently moved back to England, temporarily living in my little London flat. I pride myself as quite a free-spirit, flexible in nature. It was hard though. All my activities to counter-balance my life was stripped away. I was left with going to Covid, worrying I’ll bring it back home to my parents. I eventually moved out for 3 months when I knew this was a long-haul. That was good for growth. I had more time to look after myself. I started asking for help from some CBT. I managed to make out a plan when planning was just about the last thing you’ll do in the face of a new unknown ‘plague’. "
Why did you really dislike being called an NHS hero?
“As much as I love watching Marvel (sorry DC fans!), I have no super-power that heroes have. My colleague and I are all bare human. Between the first and second wave, plenty people went off sick. Some are still recuperating. I know it’ll take a while for us to take a breather back when the society just wants us to flick a switch and do it like magic. Steve Rogers have Super Soldier Serum, T’Challa has Vibranium. We have nothing. Our armour, PPE, was at one point not even there."
“Our super-power is international cooperation, good border control, well-done social distancing and empathy towards one another”
Who inspires you every day?
“I’m a believer in Christ. My default answer will be Jesus for he is relatable and human. I also feel like God has sent little inspirations around me. That’s why I started my blog to tell stories of the extraordinary ‘ordinary’ specimens of human around me. This could be ranging from women taking leadership roles in the hospital, or speaking out for juniors, or coming over from another country and juggling working and being a mother right. Most people around me I can find inspiration from."