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Envisioning An Empowered Future: Malaysia’s First Women Ophthalmology Forum Commemorates International Women’s Day

The forum brought together leading voices in the field to celebrate, inspire, and empower women in ophthalmology, fostering an environment of empowerment, empathy, and understanding.

The official launch of the first Women in Ophthalmology forum in Malaysia. Photo courtesy of Roche.

KUALA LUMPUR, March 8 – Malaysia’s ophthalmology community kicked off celebrations for International Women’s Day early with the inaugural Malaysia Women Ophthalmology Forum, themed “Empowering Visions”.

In line with the 2024 theme of International Women’s Day, “Inspiring Inclusion”, the forum, organised by Roche Malaysia, centred on women and their contributions in health care — specifically, within the field of ophthalmology.

Recent studies reveal that while inching towards gender parity, the increase in the proportion of females in ophthalmology had not translated to an increase in female representation in leadership positions.

Instead, globally, women make up only 25 to 30 per cent of ophthalmologists, with an even lower representation in leadership roles and surgical sub-specialisations.

Moderated by Freda Liu of The Shift Asia, the forum panellists include Dr Nor Fariza Ngah, Ministry of Health deputy director (research and technical support), Dr Tara Mary George from Sunway Medical Centre, and Dr Shamala Retnasabapathy from Hospital Sungai Buloh.

Topics for discussion covered a multitude of areas, including breaking barriers, overcoming stereotypes, patient care, the importance of interpersonal skills, the significance of continuous education, as well as the professional development of women in the medical profession.

Opening the field was Dr Nor Fariza, who noted how women offered a unique perspective in medicine.

“Women bring a distinct perspective that enriches the profession and elevates patient care. In a domain where empathy, communication, and meticulousness reign supreme, women’s inherent strengths make them indispensable contributors.

“Moreover, diverse representation ensures health care systems are attuned to the varied needs of patients, including those specific to women.

“By championing and empowering women in ophthalmology and health care at large, we not only advance gender equality but also enhance the calibre and efficacy of health care provision for all,” she said.

This was echoed by Dr Tara, as she discussed the importance of women in medicine from the angle of patient care and interpersonal relationships.

“In ophthalmology, where patients often face concerns about their vision and wellbeing, it is the compassionate approach commonly associated with us women which can significantly enhance patient care.

“Through empathetic communication and understanding, we can alleviate fears, clarify treatment plans, address patient concerns with as much sensitivity and understanding as possible, and cultivate a supportive environment where patients feel valued and heard,” according to her.

Both points were supported by Dr. Shamala, who added: “The supportive role of family is pivotal in achieving work-life balance, contributing to the empowerment of women in their professional endeavours.

“What cannot be neglected is continuous education and professional development, including staying abreast of the latest advancements in ophthalmology.

“This is another way of showcasing our commitment to providing the highest standard of care to their patients while contributing to the advancement of the field as a whole — and how we pave the way for greater inclusivity, diversity, and progress within the profession.”

All specialists reiterated the significant contributions of women within the field, despite enduring persistent resistance. They underscored the criticality of magnifying women’s voices in health care, nurturing an environment conducive to collaboration, camaraderie, and reciprocal trust and comprehension.

As the world commemorates International Women’s Day, the inaugural forum of the Empowering Vision series stands as a beacon heralding a future of progress and inclusivity in health care.

By championing the inclusion of women in our field, Roche works to forge a path towards a more equitable and respectful world, where every individual, regardless of gender, is afforded equal opportunities and respect.

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