How Pennsylvania Hospital's 1st female neurosurgeon balances motherhood with a career demanding 80+ hour work weeks: 5 key points


Zarina Ali, MD, was the first female neurosurgeon at Pennsylvania Hospital in Center City, and now she's encouraging other women to take the plunge, according to a report in The Philly Voice.

Women are noticeably absent among neurosurgeons, with just 219 board-certified female neurosurgeons certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgery, and 25 full time female academic neurosurgeons. Only one neurosurgery department in the country includes a female chair.


In addition to her clinical practice, Dr. Ali is mother to three children with a fourth on the way and juggles motherhood with working 80-plus hours per week as a neurosurgeon. She told The Philly Voice she's able to balance motherhood with a high demand job because her husband takes an active role in child care and she has a full time nanny with the kids.


Here are five quick notes on Dr. Ali:


1. She has a special interest in intracranial brain tumors, degenerative spine surgery, peripheral nerve surgery and brain trauma patients.


2. She strategically planned her births to coincide with working on research projects so she didn't have to worry about clinical responsibilities or long hours in the OR as she introduced her new child into the family.


3. Her career as a neurosurgeon helped Dr. Ali prepare for motherhood; she was experienced with lack of sleep after her long training hours and time spent in the OR, so when her new child was born she felt prepared to function with fewer resting hours.


4. Dr. Ali credits mentors for helping her through training and teaching her to appreciate the emotional toll of working with patients and families. However, most of her mentors were male and she turned to the professional world to find female mentors.


5. Her advice to female neurosurgeons-in-training? "First focus on being a neurosurgeon. Then you need to work hard and be the best neurosurgeon you can be. Don't let those seeming limitations keep you from your goal. You just need to find the strategies to get you there," she told The Philly Voice.


Now, female residents connect with Dr. Ali for mentorship and advice.


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