International Women's Day 2020

For International Women’s Day 2020, our medical director, Dr Claire Kenwood, shares some of the moments that shaped her career…

When I was leaving school I received some career advice from a local GP.  “Get married, have a baby, and stay at home” he said. He saw medicine as a man’s world, and although I surprised by his advice it did sharpen my determination to succeed!  Not long after receiving his advice I began my medical degree. I’d always known I wanted to become a psychiatrist – it’s much more a vocation than a job. My values haven’t changed over the years; I’ve always felt passionate making a difference for the people I serve.

As it happens, I did get married and had a gorgeous baby boy. It wasn’t easy to balance all this with the long shifts and studying, but I was fortunate to be offered flexibility around my family commitments. I worked part time for a number of years, throughout my training and as a consultant. I’m grateful to the leaders around me who allowed me to work flexibly, and in return they benefited from my assertive outreach skills, which were hard to come by back then.

I’ve been lucky to have inspirational mentors, both men and women. One of my seniors, Tim, saw something in me worth developing and created opportunities for me to progress and succeed. We wrote a book together – he the expert and me the novice – it’s an experience I’ll always be grateful for.  Another of my seniors, Consuela, had a huge personality and swore like a sailor, but she treated everyone she came across with complete humanity, and she taught me to be forensic in my understanding of people’s lives, not just their illness.

Like everyone, I’ve faced challenges in my life and career. I’ve been a newly divorced single mum with exams to pass and on call shifts to work. In these times I have been inspired by the lives of those I serve – it’s been a privilege to witness the resilience people possess in the worst of circumstances, and their stories remind me that life’s ups and downs are all part of what it means to be human. It’s my belief that all things pass, whether good or bad, and we can make the most of any situation.