Ritu Malaiya is a consultant rheumatologist and Clinical Lead at Epsom & St Helier University Hospital. Ritu is also a BSR Council Regional Chair for London South and NEIAA Regional Champion for London. Here she talks about her career and those who came before her, and why rheumatology is such a great career choice for anyone.
I feel privileged to be part of such a dynamic and progressive specialty and my experience of being a woman in rheumatology has been overwhelmingly positive, with intellectual challenges and a diverse but complex patient group.
Before I delve into my experience of being a woman in rheumatology, I'd like to first highlight some very prominent women in field: Dame Carol Black and Prof Jane Dacre, the second and third women to serve as president of the Royal College of Physicians in its 500-year existence. Also, Dr Barbara Ansell, regarded by many as the founding figure of paediatric and adolescent rheumatology. These women, and many more, have paved the way as leading figures not only in the interest of promoting rheumatology as a specialty but also as our national leaders.
The specialty offers support and flexibility throughout training. I had children relatively early in my career, during my first registrar year. The adjustments of juggling a young family, rheumatology training, general medicine on calls and a Masters in rheumatology certainly came with its challenges!
The support of the training programme directors at that time, also women, and the support of my colleagues in departments were invaluable. My experience within rheumatology is that we look after our own – we support each other to achieve our full potential and despite having a competitive edge, we shine in each other’s successes.
Gender disparities still remain. This is especially notable in the field of academic rheumatology. National initiatives such as flexible training and NIHR greenshoots funding for new consultants are starting to influence positive change in this area.
Career highlight? This is a difficult question; I don’t think there is a single highlight. Each phase of career development has its own opportunities and challenges. Achieving those challenges is a highlight in itself, which then allows a platform to reach for the next exciting prospect. One thing I will say is that at every stage I've been supported, guided and encouraged by the most amazing colleagues.
BSR has allowed us, as a specialty, to connect with other like-minded individuals throughout the nation. I truly feel that the highlight of being a rheumatologist is that we are one big team that supports each other to do better for our patients and to be the best of ourselves.