President of Royal Australasian College of Surgeons denies sexual harassment is rife as Dr Sally Cockburn encourages trainees to talk to a #safeDIT

President of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) Professor Michael Grigg has released a statement saying that it is disappointing that media reports suggest it is preferable for female surgical trainees to silently endure sexual harassment.

RACS Prof Michael Grigg on 3AW radio

On Melbourne radio station 3AW, Prof Grigg has said that if young women in medicine do receive unwanted sexual advances that they should report it so it can be dealt with and confronted. RACS sexual harassmentHe also said that Dr McMullin’s comments could potentially discourage women from entering the field of surgery and that allegations by Dr Gabrielle McMullin that sexism is rife among surgeons in Australia were appalling.

Dr Sally Cockburn on 3AW radio
Responding to Prof Grigg’s comments also on 3AW, Dr Sally Cockburn has said that she is “sick and tired of my profession brushing it under the carpet and pretending it isn’t happening” and that “what these guys have to understand is that what they see as a joke, someone else may find devastating.”

Dr Gabrielle McMullin on ABC television
Standing by her comments from Friday, Dr Gabrielle McMullin appeared on ABC television on Monday night saying that “Unfortunately there are cases in which women have been targeted for sex and their refusal has led to the ruining of their careers.”

RACS Dr Kate Drummond on ABC radio
Kate Drummond, Deputy Chair of the Women in Surgery Group of the RACS has said that she strongly advises young women who have been the subject of any sort of harassment or anything they’re concerned about to report it and speak out because otherwise the problem will never be fixed.

However, it may take some time before female doctors and medical students feel that they are able to come forward.

Anonymous female surgeon’s open letter
A female surgeon’s letter has been published in The Age and speaks of how being a woman has defined her career, not just influenced it. She says that people like Dr Drummond who deny that sexism is a problem in surgery are the reason why women do not come forward.

A baby doctor’s blog
From the Victorian based intern known on Twitter as @lifeasameddie, during the period of mediation after reporting sexual harassment as a medical student, was made to rehash the incident to clinicians in the hospital where it occurred despite her desire not to. She just wanted to move on with her life.

A medical registrar’s blog
In medical registrar Dr Ashleigh Witt’s blog post which gives examples of insidious comments that have been made which have taught her to “accept sexual harassment at work” she writes:

“It’s that I’m a little bit scared I’ll lose my job for writing this blog post.”

Interestingly, one of the comments on the article featuring Dr Witt’s post speaks of a different method of stopping sexual harassment in the medical workplace:

After weeks of toing and froing about whether to report a very senior doctor who had harassed me sexually, asked me on dates and so on, I finally told my fiancee who had become concerned that I had not been myself. After discussing whether to report it, I decided not to. The same doctor persisted. I told my fiancee again who insisted that I report it. I told him that I didn’t want to ruin my career and that no-one would believe me anyway. With just a tiny bit of research, my fiancee found the email address of the doctor’s wife who is in a high profile position in government. He sent her an email outlining what her husband was doing. The harassment stopped. There’s more than one way to skin a cat.

Talk to a #safeDIT
Dr Sally Cockburn has also started the Twitter hashtag #safeDIT where senior doctors are identifying themselves as someone to talk to if a trainee doctor is being harassed.

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Image: David Castillo Dominici –

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