I am sorry…

These are truly some of the hardest words to say. Even my 2-year-old would rather give you a cuddle and do everything to show that he is sorry whilst vehemently refusing to say the words.

I have been listening and watching as the story of the Hollywood mogul and his predatory behaviour towards women unfolded in the news and social media. Most of these women, unfortunately, were approaching him in a professional capacity and thus felt they couldn’t really come clean about his disgusting behaviour. I also heard during the drawn-out campaign of the US elections, excerpts of Trump’s recordings about how he personally dealt with and “handled” women he found in his midst. I also recall how everyone’s beloved television dad, Mr Cosby, had similar allegations brought against him in a court of law although a few more women than those who eventually took him to court had reported on similar despicable behaviour. I then asked myself- when do boys learn these sorts of behaviours and what reinforces this to keep going? What makes them think that this is an appropriate way to interact with women? Who modelled this behaviour for them during their childhood? This thought took me back to my childhood as I will elaborate below.

I grew up in a middle-class home in a small corner of Gaborone, the capital of Botswana. I attended a private school if you could call it that, from primary right through to high school. As my friends and I reached adolescence, the topic of great interest naturally steered to dating and sex – who is with who, what they did when/how etc. I recall many Monday morning assemblies, hearing whispers from other classmates about what had gone on over the weekend whilst my nerdy self-had been home. There usually, (I hate to acknowledge it was a repetitive occurrence), was a story of how some girl was invited to a “party”, had her drink spiked or drunk too much only to woke up and find that she had been sexually assaulted by a few of the boys who happened to be at the party. This was colloquially called a “gang bang” session. From memory, there were some girls who seemed to be invited to these parties and have this sort of thing repeatedly occur to them without reporting it to the teachers let alone the police. Sometimes you would hear that some of the victims had to travel to South Africa to have some surgical termination of the resultant pregnancies as termination of pregnancy is illegal in Botswana. It just seemed like a thing that occurred, that most people heard about but never really reported or prevented. It just seemed like the Harvey Weinstein scandal, except in high school of course, where a lot of people would have known about his behaviour but chose to be quiet or were quiet due to circumstances only they understand. Now, this was one school of many and if this occurrence was extrapolated to all the schools in Gaborone/Botswana, there are a lot of people who have been hurt and much more who knew about it and kept quiet.

Well, I am here now to say I am sorry…
For my participation in the silence and the ongoing victimization of the victims, I would like to say I am sorry…
For not offering you a shoulder to cry on, I would like to say I am sorry
For not asking if you were okay, I would like to say I am sorry
Most of all, for being too young to understand how I could even try to help you, I would like to say I am sorry.
I understand that we are unable to change our past and that I was merely a child myself when this was occurring but still I say I am sorry. I recently read Lupita Nyongo’s recollection of her own experiences with Harvey Weinstein and how she regrets keeping quiet about it as maybe talking about it earlier would have prevented a few more people having to endure such behaviour. I hope that my career as a family physician, a privileged position in society, allows me to try and right my childhood wrongs and to empower women who may find themselves in such situations to report such behaviour and know that I will always have their backs. I hope that little boys and young men, through the exposure of these sadistic creatures, realise that each woman who is abused could be their mother/sister/aunt or daughter and that hopefully, this different perspective teaches them how to properly and respectfully treat women. I hope with time, we can live in a world where men don’t feel the need to sexually overpower women EVER! I also hope that women continue to speak up so that, we, in turn, make these guys VERY sorry for messing with us.



I have had time to reflect on the different curveballs medicine has given me in my career so far and one that sticks out for me is the day I quit! It was quite a surprise to me that things got that bad but more so that I had the guts as a junior doctor to call it quits and basically risk it all.
I was working in a small country town in Victoria as a surgical resident when this unfolded. Now surgery and many surgical rotations come with very long hours. It was completely normal to start work at 7am (having arrived earlier to organise everything for the morning ward rounds) and then work the whole day and occasionally be in charge of ward patients until 8-9pm to hand over to the doctor doing nightshift. Occasionally, when there was a really sick patient or you were in theater assisting in surgery, you might actually still be in the hospital until about midnight knowing you have to get home, shower, eat, sleep and try and get ready for the next day when you do it all over again. Everyone was in the same boat and you did what you could to keep sane during this time.
My co- junior doctor and I  had been doing the surgical rotation for a while when unfortunately our surgical registrar (the doctor immediately my superior) had to leave the hospital for personal reasons. It wasn’t long until we got a replacement registrar which was great although we had started to enjoy the added responsibility. Joy turned to horror when we realised that our new registrar was not really a team player as our old registrar had been. He would turn up late demanding that we do all our work and his, would only take phone call consults and not ever want to see a patient and he would spend all his days either in theatre or chilling in the staff room.  This went on for a few weeks and we all sucked it up, looking forward to the time we would change rotations.
I then drew the short straw and had to work a weekend cover shift with him which I figured could not get any worse than his mid week antics.
I started bright and early, ready for the 14hr shift and before long things were going pear-shaped. I had sick patients to attend on the ward and he was in theatre and not interested in seeing anyone I was calling for help about. I then made an executive decision and called the consultant (team leader)  to liase with him about the patients I was very concerned about. Word must have then filtered back to him in theatre that I had got help from the super boss and before long he was in my face, yelling and cursing me out for daring to ask for help when he clearly was not going to help.
As I stood there in shock and failing dismally to control my emotions, I thought “Fxk this Sx*t, I cannot be subjected to all this abuse for caring enough about my patients to ask for help” and decided to quit!! I packed my bags, told the surgical nurse unit manager that I was going home and that they should find someone to complete my shift. I called human resources manager and told them I had just quit. I walked home and spent the rest of the day in tears. I had never been humiliated, yelled at and cursed out for being chocolate skinned like that in my medical career and even though I believed I had done the right thing by walking away, I was not sure what to do next. It was the middle of a new term and getting a whole new job would be a nightmare.
The HR manager called back and between my sobs was able to understand the gravity of my decision. They spoke to all the witnesses of the yelling as well as the nurse unit manager who had been working in the ward that day. After feedback from all the nursing staff, who had apparently also written multiple complaints about the new surgical registrar, and feedback from the consultants and theatre staff, the surgical registrar was let go. I was informed of the managerial decision to let him go and asked if I could return to complete my contract.
Looking back, I am proud that I stood up against workplace abuse and even though was much junior in my training, was still able to make such a decision to protect myself. I regret that it took direct, humiliating verbal abuse to make that decision but sometimes you have to be pushed to take that leap.