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Leading women medical academics share the secrets of their success

Leading female doctors talked about success, leadership and the importance of mentors at the first ever BMA conference to celebrate and promote women in academic medicine.

Baroness FinlayBMA president Baroness Ilora Finlay (pictured right), an expert in palliative medicine and care of the dying, shared what she has learned about being a good leader.

She told a panel discussion at the BMA Women in Academic Medicine conference: ‘It is really important to be honest and consistent. The other thing is that you really must listen — people in leadership get into trouble when they become complacent and probably overrate themselves a bit.’

Baroness Finlay said what made people stand out was whether they went the extra mile and made people’s lives easier.

‘If you are demanding and create furore, people are worn out by you, but if you are a problem solver, you are helping people and making their lives easier,’ she said.

‘There is a saying about trust that [it] arrives on foot and leaves on horseback — you earn trust from those around you and betray that trust at your peril, because they will never trust you again.’


Supporting achievement

Former BMA president and co-author of internationally renowned textbook Clinical Medicine Parveen Kumar said supportive bosses, wonderful patients, working hard and loving the things she had done, as well as having a supportive family, had helped her achieve career success.

She said she had been drawn to research to investigate ‘unchartered waters’ and said it was exciting being one of only a few people around the world who understood a certain topic.

Top tips for success from:

Parveen Kumar

  • Don’t ask anyone to do something you wouldn’t do
  • Lead by example, work hard and look after the staff under you
  • If someone yells at you, don’t be offended, it is their problem not yours
  • Avoid confrontation, it is easier to get there by talking
  • Mediate fairly; never shout at anyone
  • Choose your path - look 10 years ahead, watch your CV and make it appropriate
  • Enjoy extracurricular activities such as art, music, travel and writing
  • Be innovative in what you do – old ways may be OK, but new ways may be better.

Baroness Ilora Finlay

  • You need to listen all the time
  • One door closes and another one opens – you decide to go through that door, or you don’t
  • People who set their sights on one course are rather naïve
  • Eminently ‘sensible on paper’ decisions are boring – you have to take risks
  • Don’t take other people’s support for granted.


Watch a webcast of the BMA Women in Academic Medicine Conference


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