‘Successful women in ELPA’s family,’ second act
On March 8, 2021 – Women’s Day, ELPA organized ‘Successful women in ELPA’s family,’ a talk dedicated to highlighting some success stories of women involved in ELPA. It was the occasion to listen to some inspirational stories inextricably linked to patient advocacy, liver disease, and patients’ associations. The event was live-streamed on the ELPA Facebook page.
However, ELPA would like to continue raising awareness and share a positive message on this topic. Thus, it decided to turn the event into 6 written interviews featuring all the guests available on the ELPA website.
FIRST EPISODE – SECOND EPISODE
Dr. Teresa Casanovas is a hepatologist, President of the Spanish ELPA Member association ASSCAT, ELPA Director, and Leader of the ELPA Scientific Committee.
ELPA: Teresa, how has everything started? When did you decide to become a doctor?
Teresa: I was born in Barcelona in 1951, the eldest of 5 children. I have only positive memories, but you can imagine the idiosyncrasies and culture of my generation. We were not rich neither had doctors in the family, except a close friend of my father. The most important thing was that my parents wished that their children would have studied at the university and it had to be equal for girls and boys.
I do not remember since when I have decided to study medicine but for me was typical playing doctor and surgery. People in the family tried to be against my idea, but my father said that girls should have the same opportunities to do what they wanted. My model was Marie Curie.
During High School, a colleague who also studied medicine remembered that I was determined to be a medical doctor.
E: During your long and successful career, you focused on two specific topics: clinical trials on viral hepatitis and research dedicated to liver diseases and liver patients. However, I was particularly impressed by your studies on health-related quality of life (HRQOL) in liver patients. Did you find some discrimination in how women and men are treated as patients?
T: I was already convinced that the course, risk factors, and liver disease outcomes in women are different from that of men. But only when I started studying Quality of Life in liver patients (pre and post-liver transplant), I realized that recovering was different and overlooked by the male physicians who were treating them. I saw that women after liver transplants wanted and were motivated to return to their family life taking care of their family.
E: As a doctor, I suppose you spent a lot of time working in the hospital. You also wrote your Ph.D. thesis while working, but you also had a family and children. Did you struggle to find a balance between your career and your personal life?
T: I have had struggles, triumphs, and disappointments, but in general, I had persevered and created new ways that I never thought possible when I began my studies. Although sometimes it was challenging to balance family, career, and social life or hobbies, I have mainly positive memories.
I could never have done what I have done without the support I have always received from my family. I would like to mention that I managed work and family responsibilities to ensure that both received full attention. However, I have to point out that, in a medical woman’s career, it is crucial to have a “mentor” or adviser that has to take into account some specificities and personal needs.
In the 21st Century, we have a total “feminization of medicine,” but in the last years, women are not acquiring, for different reasons, the leading positions as they should. Women should be provided equal opportunities for training and job placements, and good positions without sacrificing their personal lives.
E. After a 41 year-long career, you decided to retire. However, your engagement at the liver patients’ side did not stop. What was your principal motivation?
My patients’ experiences started when I was 20 in Hospital Clinic wards, some memories of liver patients last since then. However, my contacts with patients’ NGOs started informally when they asked me for punctual collaborations and could give them some idea.
Since 2016 I was retired from my work in the hospital. Since then, I have collaborated (volunteer) as a president of the ASSCAT (Asociació Catalana de Pacients Hepàtics), aiming to educate, inform and support patients and families about liver diseases. We publish in Catalan and Spanish.
ASSCAT belongs to ELPA, to WHA (World Hepatitis Alliance) and to AEHVE (Alianza para la eliminación de las hepatitis víricas en España). I am a member of the ELPA Board and also the coordinator of ELPA Scientific Committee.
E: A wish for the future…
T: It might be helpful to continue sharing women’s experiences, some are shared experiences, and perhaps some are unique to women; for me, it is essential to reassure women that they are not the first to face these experiences. Training is the same for men and women, but women in medicine are there today because many of us demonstrated that women could “do it.”