An Abbotsleigh session with surgeons



 L-R: Dr Mukherjee, Isabella Anderssen, Sarah Chang and Dr Atkinson outside the operating theatre


Two Abbotsleigh Year 11 students were recently invited by Sydney Adventist Hospital (SAN) in Wahroonga to meet with some inspiring female surgeons as part of a program the hospital intends to introduce to mentor and encourage young women into the medical profession. 

Sarah Chang and Isabella Anderssen were both incredibly excited to visit the hospital, and meet with Orthopaedic surgeon Dr Michelle Atkinson and Ear Nose and Throat surgeon Dr Payal Mukherjee. The girls also had the extremely rare opportunity to enter the operating theatre where one of Australia’s best cardiac surgeons, Dr Emily Granger, was performing heart bypass surgery.  Dr Emily Granger is one of the few female cardiothoracic and heart/lung transplant surgeons in Australia.

Dr Michelle Atkinson is an Orthopaedic Surgeon subspecialising in Spinal Surgery. Dr Atkinson graduated with a medical degree at Newcastle University. After attaining her fellowship in Orthopaedic Surgery, she travelled to Centres of Excellence in Spinal Surgery to complete further fellowships in New Orleans, Louisiana, and Louisville, Kentucky in the USA, and Birmingham in the UK. 


 L-R: Isabelle Anderssen and Sarah Chang with orthopaedic surgeon Dr Atkinson. 



Dr Michelle Atkinson. 


Dr Payal Mukherjee is an adult and paediatric Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) surgeon with special skills in advanced ear surgery. Dr Mukherjee is a senior lecturer of surgery at The University of Sydney and the ENT lead for research at the RPA Institute of Academic Surgery. She is an executive member of the NSW regional committee of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons; and is a committee member of a research group called the Meniere’s research fund, of the Sydney Medical School.



Ear Nose and Throat surgeon Dr Payal Mukherjee talks to the students about cochlear implants. 


Sarah Chang looks through the ear canal of Isabelle Anderssen under the guidance of Dr Mukherjee. 

Doctors Atkinson and Mukherjee are dedicated to encouraging young women into the medical profession. They are currently working with the hospital to develop regular information breakfasts that will be open to local high school children in the area after July. 

Abbotsleigh student Sarah Chang is interested in the field of orthopaedics and neurology. 

“I became fascinated in orthopaedics after my work experience week at the Royal Prince Alfred Institute of Rheumatology and Orthopaedics, which gave me a glimpse into the very real struggles that people undergo when affected by problems in their lower joints and bones; and the importance of the orthopaedic surgeons in treating them as efficiently and effectively as possible. On the other hand, I was captivated by neurology after I took part in a program at UNSW that focused on the brain and CNS.” 

Sarah described her visit to the SAN as “an amazing opportunity to talk to three inspiring women in medicine”. 


 Sarah Chang is fitted with a surgical helmet by Dr Atkinson. 


A highlight was seeing Dr Granger perform surgery. “The immense respect and care she had for the patient was evident in the effort the whole operating team put in to make everything go well,” said Sarah. 

“The vision Dr Payal Mukherjee and Dr Michelle Atkinson have for women in medicine, and the plans for information sessions to encourage girls in their field, has encouraged me to pursue and explore my interests in the area. We need to take away the stereotype that women are any less skilled or capable than men at being doctors, and as both doctors showed us, more exposure of the importance and great diversity of female medical students entering the profession would be just the way to achieve this,” said Sarah. 

Sarah’s medical aspirations are complemented by her current subject choices at school. 

“Chemistry would help me gain an understanding of elemental and chemical relationships, which has major applications in medicine. Though it is my only science subject, I supplement this with biology and chemistry Olympiad trainings, both of which provide a well-rounded understanding of how so many processes work together for a functioning body,” said Sarah. 

Seeing the doctors' enthusiasm and love of their work “has only strengthened my interest and passion to study in medicine, and I can’t wait to see where the women in medicine program leads to!”


 Isabelle and Sarah are prepped for surgery. 


Fellow Year 11 student Isabella Anderssen was equally responsive to the opportunity to visit the SAN. She is interested in the field of paediatrics

“I have been working with children for many years and I really enjoy it, as well as enjoying science and all things medical,” said Isabella. 


L-R: Sarah and Isabella ready to enter the operating theatre.   


Isabella is currently studying Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Extension 1 Mathematics in order to gain the full advantage to later study medicine at University.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my visit because it allowed me to see that my dreams are achievable and that there is a whole workforce of people who share similar interests as me. This has inspired me to continue to work hard at school so that I can one day get to where the doctors I met are,” said Isabella.

“I applaud the SAN in their efforts to encourage young people, especially women, to enter the medical field and follow their passions. It surely has made a difference to me and my ambitions. I was particularly fond of Dr Payal Mukherjee, who had an invigorating conversation with me about ENT surgeries in the midst of being photographed with a surgical helmet on! This experience has surely affirmed my passion for medicine and I look forward to learning and growing up, hopefully,  to become similarly positioned to the inspiring women I met at the SAN.”



L-R: Dr Mukherjee, Isabelle Anderssen, Sarah Chang and Dr Atkinson outside theatre



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