Mr. Olivier Branford is a plastic surgeon who is locum consultant at The Royal Marsden, a specialist cancer treatment hospital in London, where he performs breast reconstruction. He is an active social media user and a champion of gender equality in surgery.
“…Institutional change is always difficult to achieve, but I propose that we set an imminent date (today?) after which there is mass zero tolerance for inequality. Governments seem to want to set deadlines. Why wait?..”
Olivier, please can you tell us about your career to date and what got you interested in plastic surgery and women’s health / wellbeing?
I graduated in 1994 from Trinity College, Cambridge with a Master’s degree in Natural Sciences. I graduated from the Royal Free Hospital Medical School in London in 1998. It was the first medical school to admit women from 1874: I was very privileged to be offered a place at such a forward thinking institution! I then obtained my membership from the Royal College of Surgeons of England in 2002, having undertaken the St Mary’s Surgical Training Rotation.
My plastic surgery training was in London at Mount Vernon Hospital, The Royal Free Hospital, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, Charing Cross Hospital, St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, and The Royal Marsden, leader in the field of cancer treatment and reconstruction in the UK.
I was awarded my Ph.D. in tissue engineering in plastic surgery from University College London, following a Surgical Research Fellowship at the Royal College of Surgeons. I have published more than 50 peer-reviewed papers in plastic surgery, including the first ever national outcomes analysis in head and neck cancer, along with a number of book chapters. I have presented my work at 40 national and International meetings.
I am a scientific peer reviewer for 14 plastic surgery and related scientific journals including Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the Journal of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery, Aesthetic Surgery and the Journal of Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine, and have been appointed as associate editor at the leading journal, Plastic Reconstructive Surgery Global Open, an open access journal with wide reach.
I have conducted a randomised controlled trial in plastic surgery and I am on the steering committee for the iBRA National Multicenter Prospective Study for Breast Reconstruction as representative from the Reconstructive Trials Network in the UK.
I was awarded the Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons in Plastic Surgery, the consultant level plastic surgery examination, in 2014. I have completed fellowships in microsurgery in extremity reconstruction at St Mary’s trauma centre in Paddington, London, in breast reconstruction and head and neck cancer reconstruction at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, and in breast reconstruction at The Royal Marsden in London. I currently hold the position of locum Consultant at The Royal Marsden performing breast reconstruction.
I have a passion for plastic and reconstructive surgery, and in particular breast reconstruction, as it is technically challenging in terms of microsurgical reconstruction, combined with the aesthetic challenge of giving women an aesthetically pleasing outcome. Plastic surgery is also a relatively ‘unwritten’ book in terms of research with many exciting opportunities, being at the cutting edge of modern surgical research. My career choice appeals to me as plastic surgery is very dependent on quality results and helps to restore confidence to women after surgery. It is a real privilege to work in women’s health and wellbeing.
You’re active on social media and you’ve been promoting the #ILookLikeASurgeon campaign in support of your female colleagues. Please can you tell us more about this and why you got involved?
The #ILookLikeASurgeon campaign is a marvellous movement that was born of necessity and all those involved should be massively commended for their efforts. I truly and completely fail to understand why inequality is still an issue in 2016!
However, sadly as a result of apathy, inertia, ignorance, and bigotry inequality still needs to be addressed. We have friends, peers, wives and daughters who are subject to prejudice and this must cease immediately. I have no tolerance for this. It is without any evidential basis. Institutional change is always difficult to achieve, but I propose that we set an imminent date (today?) after which there is mass zero tolerance for inequality. Governments seem to want to set deadlines. Why wait?
Why is social media becoming more important in medicine and how can we use it to effect positive change?
Social media is growing relentlessly and with good reason. It does away with institutional hierarchy in medicine based on tradition alone. It is an individualistic and very democratic medium based on interpersonal relationships with exceptional reach. Many members of the public and professionals are listening and paying heed. It clearly has a powerful future in mass cognition. However for it to function we all need to be engaged with it.
What are your tips for growing a following on social media following?
Despite only being involved for just over a year I am lucky enough to have almost 66,000 followers on Twitter and 10,000 on LinkedIn / Facebook. I have lots of tips on gaining followers on social media that will be available on YouTube imminently thanks to PRS (Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery) Journal recording a video of a recent speech that I gave on this subject in Boston. Watch this space!
My Twitter handle is @olivierbranford. I give away all my secrets! In essence be yourself, act with integrity, be positive, imagine that you are at a huge reception where the whole world is present and how you would behave with great mutual respect and say something original: be the news!
Surgery is known to be one of the most male dominated areas of medicine. Why do you think this is and how can male champions of gender equality make a difference?
There is no reason for this. This is simply due to tradition and the attitude of out-of-date dinosaurs. The best way to deal with dinosaurs is to move around them – not to confront them. We all know what happened to the dinosaurs: There are not many around now!
Fortunately change is afoot. The ice age has come! Both women and men need to decide that gender inequality should stop immediately and act accordingly. Surgery is by its nature competitive to enter as a career so it selects for competitive individuals. However we must never as surgeons better ourselves by tripping anyone else up. We must strive to improve ourselves by being better than we were the day before. We have to support those that act with integrity and work hard with passion to improve outcomes for our patients, regardless of gender or background. Mentoring by the right individuals who have their trainees’ interests at heart is key.
What is the support like from male colleagues for gender equality and how do campaigns like #HeForShe help?
There is currently real momentum for change. I was invited to join the women in plastic surgery networking meeting at the American Society of Plastic Surgery last year in Boston by eminent plastic surgeons Dr. Karen Horton and Dr. Heather Furnas. What an honour! I was received with such warmth. This must be reciprocated at every level.
What is next for you?
I plan to use the voice that I am lucky enough to have been given in social media to do good, so just let me know how I can help in any way! Please message me if I can be of any assistance. I hope that we will only be talking about gender inequality using only historical terms very shortly.