Dr Myrtle Peterkin
Meeting the Challenges- The Medical Profession and the Black Woman
From a personal perspective, Dr Myrtle Peterkin, Consultant Haematologist at the Glasgow and West of Scotland Blood transfusion Service spoke on the topic-
She was born in Guyana, South America, where hearing her nurse-midwife Mother recounting tales of doctors saving babies’ lives fuelled her secret wish to become a doctor. Gaining a scholarship to the Bishop’s High School – the foremost girl’s school in the country – inspired her to believe that success in any career was possible with hard work. She became Head Girl and winner of the school’s prestigious Service medal and was later accepted to study medicine at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica (UWI).
The Professor of Medicine at UWI, an Aberdonian, first set her on the road to a career in Haematology, arranging for her training at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary. This led to membership of the Royal College of Pathologists, and her becoming a Consultant in Transfusion Medicine in 1989.
Some difficulties she encountered are experienced by any woman attempting to break into a male-dominated field. Quoting from Charlotte Whitton, “Whatever women do, they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not too difficult”. She remains, however, the only black female Consultant Haematologist in Scotland (among 18 females and 60 males). She believes that “nothing worthwhile is ever achieved without some personal sacrifice”.
Among her tips for a successful career were Conscientious, willingness, tactfulness and extracurricular interests or hobbies to lighten the pressures of work. She stressed the importance of the support of family and close friends in career success.
Dr Peterkin’s talk achieved what she set out to do, which was to inspire and encourage her audience to strive towards achieving success whatever their chosen career.