You can do amazing things

Published: 23/11/2023

For Black History Month, Dr Sethina Watson spoke with our Media and Communications Officer Rachel Yeager, about the importance of diverse role models.  

Dr Sethina Watson did not grow up with any specific dream of becoming an anaesthetist, but when the idea came to her it was a relief – literally.

“When I was pregnant, I started looking at the job [my doctor] was doing and thought, ‘Oh, that’s really interesting,’” Dr Watson said. “But when I had the epidural, which was my second interaction ever with an anaesthetist, it was absolutely amazing. I went from the worst pain in my life to no pain at all. And I thought, well whatever that job is, that’s what I’m going to do.”

Making the decision to pursue medicine, and eventually anaesthesia, was not an easy choice for Dr Watson. She had to deal with detractors, people who believed because of her demographics that she shouldn’t reach for her dreams.

“I remember very clearly being told to turn away [from medical school],” Dr Watson said. “I was told, ‘We have been talking and we don’t think you stand a chance at getting a training position, why don’t you stay at home and spend time with your kids?’”

To continue Dr Watson had to find a way to ignore all her critics.

“When I had my own moments of doubt all those criticisms, and judgements, and underestimations would come to me,” Dr Watson said. “I really had to dig deep to overcome those. But it was very hard.”

Internal doubts were also fed from a society where Dr Watson grew up without many role models who looked like her.

“I cannot recall as a child or an adult having black women role models,” Dr Watson said. “They must have existed, but they were never highlighted or talked about. This fed into me thinking, as a child, as a teenager, even into my twenties, that it was almost above my station to say I wanted to do something. And I think that’s from black women traditionally having less support.”

Now having found success as a black, female anaesthetist, Dr Watson wants to investigate how to encourage more diversity in the specialty.

“Black anaesthetists only account for about 1.5% of doctors,” Dr Watson said. “There must be some reasons behind that. I think we really need to encourage and support people into the specialty. Our patients are diverse so it’s very important our specialty is diverse.”

Part of encouraging diversity is being able to show the strength of the diversity already present, which is why Dr Watson was pleased to see the 2023 Black History Month theme, “Saluting our Sisters.”

“Seeing what women have accomplished and achieved is amazing,” Dr Watson said. “Often your own worries or the voices of others can make you think ‘That’s not possible, I can’t do that.’ But showing black women who are doing amazing things sends the message, ‘You can do amazing things.’” 

And by sharing her story, Dr Watson herself is showing the amazing things she has done, inspiring others that they can achieve their goals too.

Dr Sethina Watson is a ST7 anaesthetic trainee working in Bristol.