Female Oncologists Share Their Secret to Achieving Work-Life Balance

On October 15, FV Hospital organised “Empower Women for Women”: a lunchtime get together for female oncology doctors to create space for connection and sharing. FV’s team hosted the event to celebrate Vietnamese Women’s Day October 20 and to mark Pink Ribbon Month, which aims to raise awareness of breast cancer and its prevention.

“Doctors working in oncology must always work with gentleness, tact and patience”

A large number of doctors joined to mingle with their co-workers and hear three experienced experts in the field of cancer treatment speak: Assoc. Prof. Cung Thi Tuyet Anh, MD, PhD, Senior Lecturer, University of Medicine and Pharmacy, Ho Chi Minh City; Dr Vuong Dinh Thy Hao, Specialist Level II and Deputy Head of Chemotherapy Department, Oncology Centre, Cho Ray Hospital; and Dr Basma M’Barek, Head of Hy Vong Cancer Care Center, FV Hospital.

“Empower Women for Women” brings together a large number of female doctors in the field of cancer treatment in Ho Chi Minh City.

Hosting the programme, Ms Nguyen Thi Le Thu, Marketing & Business Development Director, FV Hospital, raised the question that while the equal role of women in society is increasingly being affirmed in many fields, do women continue to face pressure to balance their roles in the family and workplace? While female doctors in every field face challenging cases, for those working in oncology, fighting for life over death their patients is integral to their everyday.

Ms Nguyen Thi Le Thu and experts in the field of oncology share stories during the “Empower Women for Women” event

Dr Cung Thi Tuyet Anh, Senior Lecturer at the University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Ho Chi Minh City and a leading expert in the field of cancer treatment, shared her point of view: women in the medical community must constantly striving to bring value ​​to the community, their patients and themselves and their families. Women in management, while often taking often more challenging workloads, increasingly have the professional freedom to pursue their own career goals and ambitions—even when these goals take five years, 10 years, or even 30 years to accomplish. Women in medicine are working for the long haul, and so need to equip themselves with ingenuity, tenacity and patience.

“And, of course, there’s additional pressure for women, in addition to demonstrating her competency at work, to also show tenderness and femininity,” adds Dr Tuyet Anh.

Dr Vuong Dinh Thy Hao, Specialist Level II

Dr Vuong Dinh Thy Hao, Deputy Head of the Department of Chemotherapy, Oncology Centre, Cho Ray Hospital (pictured), has more than 17 years of specialist cancer consulting and treatment experience. Dr Thy Hao found the insights shared by Dr Tuyet Anh, who she has always considered her mentor, extremely compelling. Dr Thy Hao agrees that, in senior and managerial roles, women must make more effort. “I am fortunate to have the support of my parents and husband, so I can balance my time between work and family,” says Dr Thy Hao.

The secret to balancing work and personal life

Despite her busy schedule as Head of Hy Vong Cancer Care Centre, Dr Basma M’Barek’s colleagues often note that she always appears fresh and rested, no matter how many patients she sees during her shift. When asking her about her secret to maintaining her energy and youthfulness, Dr Basma—a seasoned professional with 20 years of experience in the field of cancer treatment—was happy to share her thoughts.

“Work-life balance depends on each person’s individual definition. In that regard, some people try to separate work and life by dividing the time of each day into two sections. However, life is not exactly a cake for us to split in two, so if we try to keep things compartmentalised in that way, we will put pressure on ourselves,” she explains.

“There are times when we will be more focused on work, and at other times we can compensate for the family. Experience shows that my colleagues can be excellent doctors while still taking time to take care of their families and themselves.”

Dr Basma says her secret is to be fully present in every part of her life. “Every time I do something, I always put my mind to it. When I’m in the hospital, my mind is on work, on my patients, and when I go home, I’ll focus on my family,” she adds.

Speaking to balance, Dr Thy Hao furthered this point: “To find balance in their personal and professional lives, women in medicine need to remember to love and respect themselves, and we all need to support each other in that respect.”

Dr Thy Hao and Dr Basma jointly urge women to screen for breast cancer during Pink Ribbon Month.

Female doctors also need to take care of their health and periodically check for cancer

“As a female doctor working in the field of cancer treatment, I find that, in addition to advising patients to have regular health check-ups and cancer screening so that any issues can be detected early, I also have to lead by example,” says Dr Thy Hao.

“When focusing on treating other people’s diseases, we often forget to take care of our own health. So, no matter how busy you are, I advise you, as well as reminding myself, to spend a certain amount of time each day doing physical exercise.”

Dr Thy Hao is very active in sharing knowledge with the community through social networks. She believes that doctors should also take advantage of technology to share the latest knowledge with their community, both to further medical knowledge, generally, and counter the widespread misinformation on social media that often overwhelms scientific values. “As a doctor, I can only examine a maximum of 100 patients a day. By using social networks to share medical knowledge, I can reach and help many more patients,” emphasises Dr Thy Hao.

Discussing their profession, these doctors agree that oncology is fairly unique in that they spend much of their day giving bad news and treating patients feeling pain, fear, depression, anger and sadness, which in turn takes a huge emotional toll on hospital staff. Dr Tuyet Anh gave some advice to her young colleagues: ensure oncology patients receive psychological counselling as part of their regimen. This will better position patients mentally to fight and beat cancer while amplifying the physiological effects of treatment and creating a more positive environment and outlook for all.

The perspectives shared by speakers received applause from their female colleagues in the auditorium. Dr Doan Thi My Hoa, Department of Oncology, Thu Duc Hospital, was particularly interested in the advice on incorporating psychological assessment and care for patients during cancer treatment. Ensuring patients are in a good mental health not only helps them and their family members, but also helps everybody involved in their care to maintain a stable mindset in both their work and personal life.

The female doctors participating in the event hope that with more opportunities to engage in this way, they can connect and share with more colleagues at other hospitals, thereby continuing to benefit patients in the wider community.