March 8, 2022

Happy International Women’s Day!

Northern Health’s International Women’s Day (IWD) 2022 started with a virtual breakfast, with Elizabeth Batten, Northern Health Foundation Board Member and Nina Yhap, Barbados’ first Vascular and Endovascular Surgeon, as main speakers.

Lisa Cox, Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, welcomed the speakers and opened the event. All staff who registered for the event received a small gift, with an IWD-themed cookie, coffee voucher, and a postcard from Barbados. Two raffle prizes were also drawn at the event.

“International Women’s Day is for women like Nina and Elizabeth, and for women like you and me. Women who are on the frontline as health workers, and who are taking care of patients at their most vulnerable. This day is for the supermarket workers, the teachers and the mothers who have taken care of their children during the lockdowns, some while also working from home,” Lisa said.

Elizabeth was born and raised in Epping and surrounding areas and has a strong connection with the north, after having lived and worked in the community for many years. The Batten family have contributed significantly to Northern Health Foundation. Some of the equipment in our neonatal unit has been generously donated by the Batten Foundation.

“Through the family trust, I’ve seen the impact that it has on the hospitals and what they have been able to purchase. Now, having had children myself and having gone through the public health system, I realise how important different equipment really is and the good that it has done – and I wanted to be a part of that,” she said.

After sharing her family history and glimpses of early settlement in the Epping area, Elizabeth also shared her views on balancing work and a young family.

“Because of the pandemic, I am now a stay-at-home mum, but that isn’t something I would have chosen for myself. My advice for all mums is that, if you want to go back to work, study – do it! You are a better mum if you are happy,” she added.

Nina Yhap has worked as a Northern Health Vascular Fellow and is now the first ever Vascular and Endovascular Surgeon in Barbados. She joined us from her tropical island, sharing her story of growing up among the strong Caribbean women. Nina sees the importance of having these forums, as they showcase women in different circumstances and careers, and contrast their experiences.

“One of the things I found beautiful about being a woman is that you can choose, hopefully most of the time, what your life can look like. When you are a little girl, especially in Barbados, you don’t necessarily get exposed to big professions. I wanted to be a teacher, then wanted to work in hotel management and anything interesting I saw around me,” she said.

Nina was named after her maternal grandmother who was a primary school teacher, and also worked on a farm. In her family, women were always important, both at home and at work.

“My mum was one of five daughters. I was raised in a family where women were the power source, and all of my aunts had girls. Sitting around my grandmother’s kitchen table on a farm, I knew nothing else except girls being loud, confident and that our opinions matter. While the opinions of the men around us also mattered, I’ve seen the support males in our family showed to their partners,” she said.

Nina is proud to be a woman in surgery, and even though most of her professors and mentors were men, she has always felt equal and appreciated, and highlights her time at Northern Health.

“Iman Bayat, Head of Vascular Surgery has been treating me like a colleague from day one. He explained that all opinions and experiences mattered. I never felt disadvantaged or different. I felt like a surgeon, that happened to be a woman,” she added.

“In me, there are so many versions of so many women. Women who were homemakers, women who were professionals and academics. I think what’s great is we get to be the version that we want to be. Every women I meet and get to speak to, and hear their stories, I get to admire them and think how can I replicate that,” she concluded.