I am a consultant in infectious diseases and microbiology, and am currently funded by a Wellcome Trust Intermediate Fellowship to lead a small group based at the Medawar Building working on Hepatitis B virus (HBV), with close links with collaborators in South Africa and Uganda. I have leadership roles as Director of Graduate Studies for the Medawar Building, a module leader for infection and immunity teaching, and as a clinical tutor for Harris Manchester college. I became Chair of the Athena SWAN NDM self-assessment team early in 2018, and have recently been made an Associate Professor.
I have two children, and have worked less than full time for nearly ten years, since the birth of my first baby two weeks after my D.Phil viva in 2009. Pursuing a clinical academic training pathway has meant transitions backwards and forwards between contracts with the University and the NHS. Initially working three days a week seemed like the natural balance to cope with a small child, and fitted into clinical rotas on a ‘job share’ basis. After having a second baby, I took what felt a difficult decision to step up from a three-day to four-day working week to keep my research interests alive, while working to complete a marathon 11 years in speciality clinical training.
The road has not always been an easy one. I am not very disciplined with my time, so although my official role is less than full time, I often work more than full time. What gets referred to as my ‘day off’ is often the most frenetic day of the week. Every so often, I end up unavoidably in the southern hemisphere, and have to call in childcare favours. With all the plates that are spinning, some get dropped; I have learnt to be more forgiving of myself when things don’t go to plan, and have lots of practice in sacrificing perfectionism in favour of realism. The logistics of dealing with two different employers have been complicated, and I am a strong advocate for streamlining approaches to clinical academic training.
As a result of international travel, I have seen at first hand many situations where there is no perinatal healthcare, no maternity or paternity benefits, no opportunities for flexible working, and no options for childcare. This makes me reflect on the enormous privilege of having been able to have children and pursue a career in parallel, in a culture where this is accepted practice. Having the support of the NHS, the university and academic funders to work less than full time has provided me with what feels like a vital safety-valve of flexibility in ring-fencing time for my family while managing a complicated schedule. I have derived huge courage and solidarity from a network of colleagues juggling similar challenges, my work is inspiring and rewarding, and my daughters are currently still joyful about their weekly ‘Mummy Day’ (I recognise this will change over time!). Finally, I owe a debt of gratitude to my own parents for moral support and emergency childcare, and to my husband and children for their good health, good humour, tolerance and resilience.
Written December 2018