Women in Science
Alison studied medicine at Southampton. After her ‘house jobs’ in London, she spent a year full time and another year part-time doing research and was awarded the degree of Master of Surgery. After gaining experience in general surgery in various hospitals she specialised in vascular surgery. She spends half of her time running clinical trials.
at the time of the interview - May 2015
Alison is Professor of Vascular Surgery and Principal Investigator in the Asymptomatic Carotid Surgery Trial (ACST-2) in the Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences. She is married and has two children. Ethnic background / nationality: White British.
at the time of the interview - May 2015
Alison comes from a family of doctors. She decided that although her strengths lay in literary subjects, medicine would give her a broader education. She went to Queens University in Belfast, and after the first year transferred to Southampton, a new medical school at that time.
Alison did her ‘house jobs’ in London. In order to become a Senior Registrar, she had to have a higher degree and was offered a research job for a year by the head of the Department of Surgery at the Hammersmith Hospital. She was given a year’s salary and had to plan the research project herself. The project related to poor nutrition in surgical patients, and after submitting the thesis she was awarded a degree, Master of Surgery. She then got a Registrar job, later becoming a Senior Registrar and then a consultant.
Alison has two children. One was born when she had qualified as a doctor, after her ‘house jobs’, and one when she became a consultant. Alison doesn’t think there is any one ‘best time’ to have children. Her husband is also a doctor, and was also working full time, so they had a nanny and then a child minder. Alison thinks her husband had a fairly equal role in child care. For her second child in 1995 she took four months maternity leave.
Always take advice from other people. Talk to people who’ve done it before, who’ve applied to those particular funders or in that particular area before ... always get other people to give you feedback on what you’re doing
In 1999, when Alison was a Senior Registrar at St Mary’s, a large study had just finished comparing results of patients who had had surgery for narrowing of the carotid artery with people who had had medical treatment alone. Another study was suggested, to see if surgery could prevent stroke in patients with carotid artery narrowing but no recent stroke symptoms. Alison decided to lead that research, obtained ethics approval and then funding for the work. This international 15 year study, which involved Oxford too, has been completed. Alison is now comparing outcomes after Carotid Endarterectomy with outcomes after Carotid Artery Stenting (the ACST-2 trial) http://www.acst-2.org/
Until 2006 Alison did this research in her own time. She was still working full time as a surgeon. After 2006 she obtained some personal research funding from the NHS. Then in 2008 she was elected to a Personal Chair while at St Georges Hospital. In 2010 she moved to Oxford, and now spends half of her time as a consultant doing clinical work and half of her time, funded by the Biomedical Research Centre, doing research in the University Department of Surgery.
Alison says that although women get paid the same basic salary as men, men usually obtain more highly paid awards for clinical excellence, given by the ACCEA. Alison believes that in her specialty there is some gender discrimination, and sometimes men still don’t think women should be surgeons. She achieved her clinical excellence award only when she arrived in Oxford. She has some experience of gender stereotyping, but this has become less obvious with time and experience.
Alison works hard and often does her research at weekends, but she thoroughly enjoys her job, particularly meeting other surgeons and researchers from all over the world.