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First Woman Chair for College of Surgeons

First Woman Chair for College of Surgeons

Wellington Otolaryngologist Catherine (Cathy) Ferguson has been elected as the new Chair of the New Zealand National Board of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. She is the first woman surgeon to hold the position.

Dr Ferguson succeeds Southland surgeon Dr Murray Pfeifer in the position.

Cathy Ferguson graduated MB ChB from Otago University in 1983 before working as a house surgeon and surgical registrar in Wellington. She spent two years as an Otolaryngology registrar in Wellington, a year in Christchurch and a final year in Auckland before doing a fellowship in Head & Neck Surgery at Greenlane Hospital. She returned to Wellington in 1992 to take up a consultant position at Wellington Hospital.

She currently works in private practice and as a part-time consultant with Wellington Hospital.

Dr Ferguson joined the National Board as Honorary Secretary in 1997 and has also served as Board Treasurer. She was elected deputy-Chair in 2004.

She says her goal is to continue the excellent work of predecessors, Murray Pfeifer and Phil Bagshaw to advance the cause of surgery in New Zealand.

“I have serious concerns about the waiting list crisis. The Board has been active in working with the Minister and I would like to continue working constructively with the various agencies involved to improve access to surgery for all New Zealanders.

“I am interested in the training of young surgeons and am very concerned about the impact of reduced routine surgery in public hospitals on our ability to train surgeons to the high standards expected by the College.” she says.

Dr Ferguson says her election as the first woman Chair of the National Board is “an honour” and notes the excellent women role models ahead of her like recently retired President of the College, Anne Kolbe. She says while there are still very few women surgeons in New Zealand the number of women trainees has significantly increased in the past few years.

“Women can succeed in any branch of surgery and they can also take leadership roles in teaching, research and college affairs. However there are still challenges of finding balance and the time to have a family while maintaining skills and honouring on-call commitments,” she says.

Dr Ferguson comes from a medical family and describes her parents as her “medical heroes”. Her father Fergus Ferguson is a retired Urologist. Her mother Shirley is a retired GP from Titahi Bay.

Educated at Marsden College, Dr Ferguson says she wanted to be a doctor from the age of 13. She decided to specialize in surgery in her second year at Medical School when she found she really enjoyed learning anatomy. “My attraction to surgery came from the hands-on practical aspects, as opposed to other branches of medicine.”

She specialized in Otolaryngology because of the wide variety of conditions it encompasses, the fine nature of most of the surgery and the fact that many of the patients are young and able to be helped by surgical intervention.

The newly elected Deputy chair of the Board is Associate Professor Jean-Claude-Theis, an orthopaedic surgeon from Dunedin.


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