The 25 Women project: exemplifying intersectionality
08 March, 2021
When we think of the five heroes we have the pleasure to introduce this week, for us the first word that jumps to mind is obviously "women". We are celebrating 25 women psychiatrists who, with their achievements and challenges as well as with their unique way of being, have brought precious added value to our profession, and to their patients and colleagues.
At this point, it comes easily to introduce Professor Louise Howard who is recognised as a true pioneer in the dedication and commitment she has shown throughout her career to improving the mental health of women. Amongst the numerous achievements and positions she has held she leads the Violence and Abuse, Mental Health Network which brings together experts to understand, prevent and reduce the impact of violence and abuse on mental health and has led on the NHS response to domestic abuse and modern slavery and other forms of violence.
The second word that comes to our mind is “intersect”, which is very connected to the word “intersectionality”. Ilaria reflects how in her clinical and personal life “I always try to be guided by the concept of intersectionality, which helps me to go deeper whether I am meeting a friend, collaborating with a colleague, working with a patient, just seeing a stranger in the Tube”. The word “intersectionality” was coined by Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw back in 1989, and describes how multiple personal social characteristics intersect to shape individual identity and opportunities. Each of these five heroes presents with multiple aspects that interlace to create their individuality and experiences. Also, they all have an "intersectional" approach in their profession.
Dr Sridevi Sira Mahalingappa moved to the UK to train as a psychiatrist; an intersection of different cultural diversities. She was determined to become a Liason Psychiatrist as she was fascinated by the interface between medicine and psychiatry. This led her to be committed to improving the quality of psychiatric services in acute hospitals.
Despite her being celebrated as a woman psychiatrist, Dr Katrina Graham has a unique background. Prior to starting medical school, she had completed a degree in American studies and was embarking on a promising career in Marketing and Public Relations. The intersection between the multiple skills she developed allowed her to secure NHS funding and produce a short film about eating disorders which was shortlisted for a number of film prizes.
Dr Eleanor Doris Cole is a Consultant General Adult Psychiatrist. What seems central to her practice is the recognition that an individual’s personal and social circumstances are central to her/his recovery. Her wider interest in medical management interlaced with this clinical insight and research experience has been instrumental in influencing how mental health services she has worked in have been delivered.
Dr Rupal Dave, a learning disability psychiatrist, carries out her profession by keeping in mind how the complex interplay of biological, psychological and social factors, and their influence within an individual person, is especially important when working with patients and carers in the psychiatry of intellectual disability. She also reflected on the condition and challenges of being a ‘trainee’; trainees are adults with adult lives and responsibilities but have the parallel challenges of being considered ‘juniors’ in their workplace and role.
We are celebrating these women for their incredible achievements. However, their successes are closely intertwined with the challenges they have faced and overcome during their personal and professional lives, whether that has been ill-health, balancing the commitments of family and work, living in a foreign country and both academic or clinical disappointments. We are excited and proud to share their stories with you.