I’m back for another round of who’s that girl and I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing one of the smartest people I know, Kathleen Batty.
Kathleen is on track to be one hell of a doctor and I enjoyed getting an insight into the medical world beyond Grey’s Anatomy.
I hope you enjoy reading about Kathleen’s experience in a male-dominated field as she kicks ass every single day to be the best doctor she can.
Drum roll, please!
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY TO WHERE YOU ARE TODAY.
I grew up in Sydney with my family and went to Killara High School. I went straight into undergraduate medicine (BMed/MD) at UNSW, which was 6-years of study, research and hospital placements all around Sydney. I then did my internship and residency at Royal North Shore Hospital. I sat and passed my Physician’s exams in 2018 (worst year ever) allowing me to start my specialist training in Medical Oncology this year. I have three years of specialist training in hospitals in the North Shore, then I’m done. It’s been a long process, but worth it!
WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO BE A DOCTOR AND HAVE YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO BE A DOCTOR?
I always loved people, knowing about how the body worked and was a science nerd at school. I love that no two days are the same and that most of my job is problem-solving. It’s a huge privilege to have people trust you when they are in their most vulnerable state, and I find it really rewarding work. The adrenaline rush running down the ward when the code blue alarm goes off is pretty great too. And did I mention sticking needles/drains into things, draining pus/bodily fluids and all the blood? Lots of fun.
WHAT DREW YOU TO SPECIALISE IN THE FIELD YOU DO?
Oncology is not for everyone, there is a lot of death and difficult situations. What I love is that you diagnose patients at the start, then get to know them and their families closely during their journeys. There are huge changes occurring in the oncology world, with new treatments such as immunotherapy that mean people are living longer with cancer. In this way, there are a lot more happy stories as well, and being able to tell people that their scans are clear of cancer following treatment is a good feeling. Cancer often affects young people, and I find the patient population really inspiring. So many people are able to remain so positive despite a poor prognosis, and they are motivated to look after their health. It’s actually a beautiful area of medicine to work in.
WHAT’S SOMETHING YOU WEREN’T PREPARED FOR THROUGHOUT UNI THAT SURPRISED YOU IN THE REAL WORLD?
Doing night shifts, not eating/drinking/going to the bathroom for 14 hours straight on a busy shift. You get used to it though! And also the smells. There are so many horrific smells in hospitals!
HOW REALISTIC ARE MEDICAL DRAMAS LIKE GREY’S ANATOMY?
Depends on who you ask! Realistic in some ways, I have to say hospitals are full of drama. We do see some horrible traumas and unbelievable presentations to ED – foreign objects etc! In terms of the work environment, we often work and live together so a bit of craziness is inevitable. Some of the people I work with have become my closest friends, and medicine hardens you to become a bit dark and twisty Meredith/ Christina style. Everyone’s had a cry in the back room of a ward somewhere. I still watch Grey’s Anatomy, love it!
HOW HAS YOUR JOB ENRICHED AND IMPACTED YOUR LIFE?
Medicine has allowed me to travel the world – I’ve done placements in Ghana and Edinburgh in the UK. I’ve met the most amazing people and phenomenal friends. I’ve lived in places like Lismore and the Central Coast that I otherwise wouldn’t have. It definitely can be all-consuming, and it can be hard when you’re doing on call, working evenings, weekends and missing out on your social life. There is never a dull moment, and I am constantly stimulated. It’s really the best job, and keeps me feeling challenged every day.
IS THERE A GENDER BIAS IN THE MEDICAL WORLD?
Unfortunately yes. It is still a male-dominated field, particularly in areas like surgery. The long hours and rigorous training programs are not conducive to women having children, and this often affects speciality choice for women. Often I’ll spend ages with a patient and get asked at the end “When is the doctor coming?” so people are clearly not entirely comfortable with the concept of young, female doctors.
DO YOU EVER GET TIRED OF YOUR FRIENDS TEXTING YOU THEIR SYMPTOMS?
No, it doesn’t bother me at all. Glad that they trust my opinion, but I often send them to their GPs anyway. You have to be a bit careful with acknowledging your professional boundaries.
HOW DO YOU DESTRESS AFTER A TOUGH DAY?
Any of my friends and patients can tell you I preach exercise. Solves all problems. Nothing a good run can’t fix. I like keeping fit, and I think that if you look after yourself you can look after other people better. Exercise makes you happier, think more clearly and there is evidence that it prevents cancer recurrence (!). So do it! Spending time with my friends and family also helps, gives me perspective and keeps me grounded.
HOW DO YOU COPE WITH SHARING BAD NEWS TO PATIENTS?
In terms of breaking bad news, this is always difficult and doesn’t get easier. I think people appreciate honesty and like to be well informed. Makes a difference to take some time to sit down with people, and just acknowledge that they’re going through a shit time. Life can be pretty unfair. I’ve had to make a few 3am phone calls telling people their family members have suddenly and unexpectedly died, and that is a heart sinking experience.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU HAVE FOR SOMEONE THINKING THEY’D LIKE TO STUDY MEDICINE?
If you’re doing it for the right reasons it’s the best job! It can be all life consuming, so maybe don’t buy a pet?
+ THE SPEEDY SIX:
FAVOURITE PLACE TO EAT IN SYDNEY: Cho Cho San in Potts Point
FAVOURITE BAR: Socal in Neutral Bay
FAVOURITE SPOT IN SYDNEY: A run around Cremorne Point is always pretty amazing
WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO: Miguel or Podcasts about serial killers
THE LAST BOOK YOU READ: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck – so good.
YOUR LIFE MOTTO: You’ve got this, you do you.