Over 25 years ago, I arrived in the UK with a baby in my arms, after qualifying as a radiologist in Mumbai, India. Initially choosing to be a full-time mum, I later decided to pursue my medical career.
But – being an international medical graduate and a BAME woman – statistically, all odds were against me.
Like most SAS doctors, my career path was unconventional. While preparing for my qualifying exam, I worked in Oxford Breast Imaging with an honorary contract to gain experience in breast imaging and was subsequently offered a job.
I was then at crossroads; faced with a dilemma between training and accepting a SAS job in breast imaging.
My husband was an ophthalmology trainee in Oxford so being in the same area would keep the family together. I also found the specialty rewarding with patient-facing clinics, different imaging modalities and a whole range of interventional procedures.
My career evolved from trust SHO to staff grade, and then to associate specialist. I was learning advances in breast imaging – with a good work-life balance where I was able to pursue my passion for Indian classical vocal music – and was actively involved in my daughter’s school and extracurricular activities.
But something was missing. I was a ‘jobbing, non-consultant, non-training middle grade’ doctor and wanted more respect, recognition, reward, remuneration, a raised profile, and to further progress my career.
HEE development funding gave access to many leadership roles, education, management workshops and courses, which provided more knowledge, networking opportunities, promise and hope. This included contributing to theDepartment of Health’s report on ‘Women in Medicine’ in 2009.
Audits are an integral part of screening programmes and I enjoy data and numbers, so I started performing breast screening audits. These were appreciated, and I became the department clinical audit lead, and subsequently, deputy programme director. My career was blossoming. I also became educational supervisor and SAS representative on the trust's local negotiating committee.
My entry into the BMA SAS committee was in 2017. My friend Ujjwala Mohite was active in the BMA SAS committee and suggested that I should apply via the co-option route. I was inspired by the committee’s work, leaders, and the greater cause and my association with BMA grew stronger. I am now Oxford regional SAS committee deputy co-chair and SASC conference chair for the second year in running after a successful conference last year.
The following year I began engaging with the RCR (Royal College of Radiologists). I now represent SAS doctors on several RCR committees and working groups, contributing to SAS webpages, SAS strategy, and tackling differential attainment.
I was later elected as Academy of Medical Royal Colleges SAS committee vice chair for education, CESR and credentialing. I authored some of the committee’s statements on education, leadership, workforce, and wellbeing, which Academy and other stakeholders endorsed. I also actively participated in two AoMRC SAS conferences and was subsequently elected as committee co-chair.
Slowly but surely, I was breaking barriers, and the SAS workforce was being acknowledged and applauded.
This is my success story of a fulfilling and enriching SAS career by choice. Over the last 25 years, I have noticed a positive culture shift towards the SAS workforce, but we still have a long way to go.
I am a strong advocate of SAS careers and hope to carry the baton of amazing work done by my predecessors.
Vaishali Parulekar is conference chair of the BMA SAS committee