By: Katharine Griffiths
Created on 17th May 2011
Women make up 95 per cent of cosmetic surgery patients, but only five per cent of cosmetic surgeons are female. Obviously your criteria for choosing a practitioner should be on whether they have the experience and qualifications to do a good job, but if the gender of your surgeon is crucial for either personal, cultural or religious reasons, there are some fantastic female surgeons out there. We profile three leading lights
Whilst a facelift or rhinoplasty demands the same aesthetic considerations whether the patient is male or female, there are some procedures that are exclusively sought by women.
Understanding the drive for this type of surgery and also bringing a feminine slant to aesthetic considerations is arguably easier for a female surgeon.
Recent years have also seen a rise in so-called ‘sexual surgery’ or labiaplasty. Press coverage of this procedure has meant that women are searching surgeons out rather than suffer in silence, but for many the thought of discussing this with a man is not an option.
The organisation Women in Surgery (WinS), part of the Royal College of Surgeons, has done much research into the factors that influence career choices. A Career Progression Survey they carried out in 2005 showed that more women than men leave, mostly for family reasons.
Although things are changing, with more flexible working arrangements and greater encouragement to female trainees, there is currently a much smaller number of female consultant surgeons than male. And women patients are seeking them out.
Miss Anna Raurell
Miss Anna Raurell trained as a plastic surgeon in the UK and Australia and is a consultant plastic surgeon for the NHS and in her private practice. Her main plastic surgery interests within the NHS are breast reconstruction surgery, skin and soft tissue cancer surgery and microsurgery. At her private clinics she offers a varied range of surgical and non-surgical procedures.
"Surgery in general has historically been a very male dominated career. It is very hard work and long hours, so when you start having a family it is more difficult.
My husband is a GP so luckily he understands the pressures I work under. We have to organise our private lives to a high degree – I know most of my children's activities a year in advance!
If the children are off ill, we often have to toss a coin to see who takes time off. It is a question of team work; if my husband was very career orientated and never home then something would have to give.
In my training I covered all aspects of plastic surgery, but in my current NHS work I have focused more on breast reconstructive work and microsurgery.
When it comes to ‘female surgery’, I believe that as a woman I can empathise more with the different reasons why women have cosmetic surgery.
Some patients find it easier to talk to a woman than a man and – even more importantly – take their clothes off in front of woman, but I’ve also come across patients who want a male surgeon.
Most patients though are just looking, first and foremost, for a surgeon who has all the necessary qualifications and experience, and has a caring touch.”
Miss Lisa Sacks
Lisa Sacks is a highly respected consultant plastic and reconstructive surgeon based in Bristol. After training abroad, Lisa settled in the UK, where she worked as an NHS consultant, before deciding to go into full time private practice six years ago. She has a completely independent practice, which allows her to offer a high level of personalised care.
"I trained in South Africa where there are as few women undertaking surgical training as there are here. Women can be as competitive as men and certainly can be as good technically. But it is an incredibly demanding job and unless one has a supportive partner it is very difficult to combine family life and a career as a surgeon.
Part-time training and practice is possible in the UK. It is also possible to take maternity leave but it is very hard to get back into surgery afterwards – it is hard enough when one has been on holiday!
Surgery is perceived as a very arduous career, needing toughness, and may be offputting for women who plan to have a family as well. I have been involved with WinS for over ten years, and visit schools and talk to girls in sixth form who are considering studying medicine to explain what a great career surgery can be.
I have some patients who would never see a male surgeon and are quite prepared to travel the length of the country to see a female surgeon, but I say to them that I hope they’ve come because I’ve got a bit more to offer than just being a woman. I hope I am also sought out for my competence!
Often these patients are very insecure. These are women who don’t want to take their clothes off in front of their husbands so they certainly don’t want to undress in front of a strange man. Some aren’t even particularly happy about disrobing in front of me.
Many patients tell me that a warm, caring female surgeon means the difference between going ahead or not with their desired procedure."
Mrs Chien C Kat
CC Kat is a leading Midlands plastic surgeon specialising in all aspects of cosmetic and reconstructive surgery. In 2010, she left the NHS to dedicate herself to her private practice. One of the very few female plastic surgeons in the UK, she is in a unique position to offer that professional female perspective and care.
“Ninety-five per cent of patients seeking cosmetic surgery are female and so it stands to reason that a female patient will find it easier to develop a rapport with a surgeon of the same sex, particularly if it is surgery to a ‘sensitive’ area.
I must stress that for most patients, the sex of the surgeon doesn’t seem to matter as long as they are good. However, there is a small proportion who would only want to see a female surgeon and they are prepared to travel.
Last August I left the NHS after ten years as I felt it was a good milestone. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the NHS. It was where I established my reputation and it was very heartening to see many more female trainees coming through. But it has always been my goal to set up my own clinic and that is what I have done.
The clinic offers the full spectrum of cosmetic procedures from minimally invasive treatments to complex surgery. This is certainly the way forward in the aesthetics world.
Surgery is a career that can be all consuming. I am very fortunate in having a supportive husband and early on we made the joint decision not to have children. I am very much an all or nothing sort of person and I knew that it wouldn’t be fair to combine the hours that I work with children. Saying that, many female colleagues have successfully combined surgery and family life.
It is a very personal decision and for me it was the right one. It has allowed me to get to where I am today. You have to work for what you want in life and not expect it to fall into your lap. The end result for me has been absolutely worth it.”