Why gender doesn’t matter to first Hong Kong-born female neurosurgeon
FCC member Dr Jenny Pu, president of the Hong Kong Neuro-oncology Society and chair of the PVW Brain Tumour Foundation, talks to Rebecca Feng about how she became the first Hong Kong-born female neurosurgeon.
I have always been a mediocre type of student,” Dr Jenny Pu says, taking her time to think before each sentence. “By the time I was admitted to medical school, I wanted to get away because the culture was very different from what I had experienced as an undergrad in Canada.”
But she stayed, and eventually earned an MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery) and a Masters of Surgery from the University of Hong Kong.
She decided not to apply for any jobs after her last internship because she felt that she could not handle the stress. But Pu’s last rotation had been in the Department of Neurosurgery and they were looking for a trainee. When her senior approached her, Pu agreed. That was the first pivotal point in her career, Pu says. The second came in 2003, when SARS was raging in the city.
“I volunteered to become one of those who took care of the SARS patients,” she recalls. “It was a very bad year.”
Afterwards, Pu decided to get away from Hong Kong for a while and she went to Edinburgh. For the next 16 months she worked as a registrar and trainee, eventually earning the Douglas Miller Medal from the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh.
She enjoyed watching performances of Shakespeare and meeting warm-hearted Scottish people, but also had time to think about the path she would take next. In 2006, with encouragement from her boss, Pu returned to Hong Kong and started at the Queen Mary Hospital, where she now works as a consultant in the Department of Neurosurgery.
Pu attended to Marilyn Hood, membership and marketing co-ordinator at the FCC, until she passed away earlier this year. “She was such a sweet lady with a very strong and good character,” Pu recalls. “During her stay in MacLehose Medical Rehabilitation Centre, she still loved her job and was very organised about her work. I loved talking to her. When she passed away in the Queen Mary Hospital, I was overseas and was very upset I was not able to say goodbye to her.”
Pu was the first Hong Kong-born female neurosurgeon in Hong Kong, an achievement that she tried hard to talk down during the interview. “That doesn’t matter in many, many ways,” she says. “In being able to decide your career and being able to deliver, there is no gender difference. What is required in your profession is what is required.”
She shifted in her seat and continued: “I believe in equality if you have the ability to obtain it. Don’t try to make use of your minority status to attain equality if you are not able to. You have to ask yourself what your responsibilities are before you ask about your rights.”
Being a doctor is a service, Pu says. And in delivering this service, male and female surgeons need to strike a balance. “As females, we are more meticulous,” she says. “We are more personal. My patients would love to hug me, just to get the warmth.
“The thing is, when you write, you are the most happy,” Pu adds, smiling. “When I scrub [my hands] to do surgery, I am the most happy. So that’s how I decided to become a neurosurgeon.”
New FCC member Rebecca Feng covers the Chinese market opening-up process for Euromoney Institutional Investor in Hong Kong. Before that, she wrote for Forbes Asia in New York, covering Asia start-ups and billionaires.