In early April the New Yorker magazine published its Health, Medicine & Body Issue with a striking illustration of four female surgeons looking down at a patient.
French artist Malika Favre drew on her own experience of being operated on for the Operating Theatre cover.
“I was operated on when I was five or six . . . I vividly remember the counting down from ten—I don’t think I made it much past eight,” Malika Favre says. “I tried to capture that feeling of people watching you lose consciousness . . . Most people have experienced it, but it still remains mysterious.”
The image has, quite literally, taken on a life of its own.
Last week, Susan Pitt, a surgeon from Wisconsin lay down a challenge on Twitter for female surgeons to recreate the distinctive image.
— Susan Pitt (@susieQP8) April 6, 2017
To say women in surgery have responded to the well is an understatement.
Initially the responses to the #NYerORCoverChallenge (New Yorker Operating Room Cover Challenge) came from around America.
— M.C.Nguyen MD, MPH (@michellechii215) April 10, 2017
But within days thousands of images were being taken and shared by doctors around the world, from Brazil, Ireland, Istanbul, Saudi Arabia, Australia and Mexico.
— malika favre (@malikafavre) April 6, 2017
“In surgery, there’s been a strong movement in the past couple of years towards equality,” Pitt told BuzzFeed. “In the context of our field, the timing of the Malika Favre cover was perfect for women to rally around.”
— Susan Pitt (@susieQP8) April 12, 2017
The kaleidoscope of images are incredibly powerful and you could – quite literally – spend hours scrolling through the images accompanying #NYerORCoverChallenge hashtag and it’s close relation, #IlookLikeASurgeon.
Both are aimed at pushing back against the stereotypical image of a surgeon.
“I hope to open people’s eyes and minds that women can be surgeons and anything else they want to be,” Pitt said.
— The New Yorker (@NewYorker) April 12, 2017
While these replications are testament to the fact there are hundreds and thousands of female surgeons around the world, the reality is they remain a distinct minority.
Australian cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr Nikki Stamp made this point quite powerfully with this image.
Dr Stamp is right. Change is underway but it’s happening very slowly. Too slowly.
Watching the momentum a single doctor in America was able to create with a single tweet makes me hopeful that we can accelerate the pace of that change. There is power in numbers and Dr Susan Pitt has shown women are there in numbers and they are easily rallied.