Inspiring Reigatian: Dr Iroshini Perera
What could be more fascinating than finding disease in people’s bodies? Devoted to supporting patients facing a breast cancer diagnosis, Dr Iroshini Perera (current parent) is a Consultant Radiologist at East Surrey Hospital.
Did you always know you that you wanted to go into medicine?
Not really, but having a Mother as a Doctor meant academic achievement was definitely an expectation! I don’t recall my parents ever questioning whether I had the required talent or ability. It was simply a case of working hard enough to get the required results.
I was initially sceptical of a career in medicine. Not least because I had always disliked the sight of blood but I had also unceremoniously fainted within five minutes of watching an operation on my first day of work experience! I just wasn’t sure I was cut out for the job, however, I was fortunate to have the a large family network of medics who were more than ready to give me plenty of advice. They assured me that there was something for everyone within medicine and that there was no career more worthwhile or fulfilling.
I completed my medical training in London at King’s College Hospital, followed by four years as a Junior Doctor in Brighton. The brilliant Dr Gainsborough was our formidable Head of Training and a true champion of women in general medicine. It was with some apprehension that I told her that I had chosen to change course and pursue a career in diagnostic imaging. She didn’t hide her disappointment and I was teased by my colleagues about radiologists hiding in dark rooms, drinking coffee and terrorising the junior doctors who came to beg them for scans. Nonetheless my head had been turned. For what could be more fascinating than this rapidly developing field of diagnostics, procedures and therapeutics utilising X-rays, ultrasound, magnets and radioactivity to find disease inside people’s bodies?
So I headed to Guys and St Thomas’ Hospitals to complete five years of specialist training before becoming a Consultant Radiologist in 2010 with sub-specialisation in breast imaging. I now devote much of my time to breast cancer diagnostics at East Surrey Hospital. I love my job and feel lucky to be working within such a brilliant (and diverse) team of breast disease specialists.
What is your achievement to date?
Definitely my two amazing daughters. I’m so grateful for their joy and silly sense of humour which never fails to lighten the mood!
What inspires or motivates you?
I’m frequently humbled and inspired by the resilience of patients facing a daunting diagnosis of cancer. My job often involves making this diagnosis which is, at times, hard. For each person the experience is different and I approach every consultation as a new opportunity to ensure that I connect, communicate and offer support to the best of my ability.
What is the greatest challenge you have had to overcome this far?
Many women doctors will identify with the strain of balancing the needs of family with career. When my children were very young my husband was a trainee Surgeon which definitely added to our challenge. It was hard to accept that it would mostly be my career that would be curtailed for the sake of the family. On the plus side, as we are both Doctors, there is an innate understanding of each other’s work which allows us to comfort and support one another through the most difficult times.
How do your balance work and life?
By making time for the things you love the most like family, friends hobbies and holidays. I love cooking and thanks to my brilliant Art Teacher, Katie Manning, I’ve also rediscovered my creative side!
What would you most like to tell yourself at age 13?
Focus on your strengths and talents but also be prepared to work as hard as you can for what you want.
Don’t follow the crowd.
Don’t close your mind off to anything just because you’re don’t understand it.
Always be inquisitive and inclusive – you can learn something from every single person around you.
If you were a castaway on a dessert Island what luxury item would you want with your and why?
I would definitely take my extra large Global cleaver knife which was a special birthday present from my husband. It’s amazingly versatile; perfect for hacking through pretty much anything and nimble enough for delicately slicing the fruit for my cocktails. Probably quite useful for warding of the odd predator as well!
What more could be done to make your workplace more diverse, equitable and inclusive?
The NHS was built on a skilled workforce sourced from all over the world so I’m fortunate that everyday I get to work alongside a very diverse set of colleagues. I believe there is still some way to go to increase representation of ethnic minority groups and female staff in more senior management and leadership roles within the Trust. This will require ongoing support, education and engagement from both sides but I believe things are moving in the right direction.