Navigating a male-dominated health field

Updated: Dec 13, 2021


Recently, an article told the story of Dr. Irene Cybulsky, the first woman to become head of the cardiac surgery department in Canada and her experience with gender bias and discrimination in the health sector.


Dr. Cybulsky was the head of the cardiac surgery department at the Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) until 2016, when she was removed from this role due to gender discrimination. Dr. Cybulsky noted that her male colleagues undermined her leadership and ignored her experience and training due to her gender. This was very unfortunate as she had hoped to become a role model for other women surgeons in such a male-dominated field.


Dr. Cybulsky, refused to stay silent on this matter and decided to file a claim with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario to protect her rights that were infringed upon. Her case addressed the failure of HHS to take Dr. Cybulsky’s claims of bias and gender discrimination seriously, and how these factors affected her in her position as head of cardiac surgery.


This course of action brought her career as Hamilton’s only cardiac surgeon to end. However, years later in 2020, she graduated from law school and began her career in the law field. Dr. Cybulsky has mentioned that this career change was not motivated by money, but by the chance to hold the hospital sector accountable for her unjust termination and ensure that physicians will be treated with respect and have their rights intact regardless of their gender.


Dr. Cybulsky’s experience is a clear example that work still needs to be done in many professional workplaces, especially the health sector to break down the barriers women have to face each day.


To learn more read: 'A male world': The story behind the ouster of Hamilton Health Sciences' first female head of cardiac surgery


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