Teaching and care actions of female surgeons: a view from Cuban society

EDUMECENTRO 2022;14:e1781



Teaching and care actions of female surgeons: a view from Cuban society

Accionar docente y asistencial de la mujer cirujana: una mirada desde la sociedad cubana


Sarait Rojas Hernández1* https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3408-3310
Yeney Espinosa Rodríguez1 https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9255-4726
Josué Rojas Fuentes1 https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0428-0244


1 Villa Clara University of Medical Sciences. "Manuel Fajardo Rivero" Hospital. Santa Clara. Villa Clara. Cuba.


* Author for correspondence. Email: saraitrh@infomed.sld.cu



Submitted: 03/12/2020
Accepted: 03/11/2021



Dear editor:

The purpose of this letter is to distinguish the role of the female surgeon in Cuban society, both in the healthcare service and in teaching. Their commendable work in both spheres has contributed to their prestige and development in this specialty over the years.

Women make up more than half of the world's population; however, for centuries, they were relegated to oblivion. The history of women surgeons does not escape this social truth where gender gaps were the rule and not the exception.

For several centuries, women have fought, first, for a place in medicine, and then in surgery. It was necessary for them to cross unthinkable barriers in this century.(1,2)

Elena de Céspedes was born around the year 1546 in Spain; she is the first known surgeon in history. She had to go over herself as a man to practice because it was impossible for a woman to carry out any profession. Three centuries later, Dr. James Barry was a 19th century woman pretending to be a man to live as a surgeon.(1)

In Cuba, in 1889, the first Cuban doctor graduated: Laura Martínez de Carvajal, who symbolizes the initial effort for the emancipation of women in Cuba; it constitutes the first precedent for Cuban medical research and assistance. It helped transform the challenges faced by women throughout history.(2)

Society evolved and women were gaining space. Today, the majority of students who graduate from medical schools are women, but their insertion in the field of surgery is still questioned.(3)

In Spain there are approximately 70% of male surgeons compared to 30% of women. In the rest of the world, the data is not very different. The American Surgical Association outlined the diversity, equity, and inclusion deficiencies within academic surgery and was projected to increase diversity in surgical society membership and leadership development; they also defined the roles of female surgeons as successful and academic leaders.(4)

In Cuba, studies have been carried out in order to identify the differences between surgeons and female surgeons, it was found that there are the same possibilities for men and women to select a medical specialty, it is not considered that one or the other is more suitable to perform any specifically.(3)

The similarity in the satisfaction and professional fulfillment of men and women surgeons speaks in favor of the fact that despite the activities that women carry out at home, their work brings them well-being and development possibilities.(3) Although there are few women surgeons compared to men surgeons, it has been shown that when they take up this specialty, their results are not different from those of men.

They are recognized as representative characteristics of the female sex: their skills, flexibility, organization and planning of work, their communication and negotiation skills and their conditions for teamwork.

In Cuba, several women are presidents of the provincial chapters of the Cuban Society of Surgery; in Villa Clara it is directed by Dr. Silvia Olga González Lemus. The development of women as surgeons here has been enriched by such talented professionals as Dr. Leonila Noralis Portal Benítez, and others who have worked in pediatric care with outstanding results, and those who work at the "Celestino Hernández Robau" University Hospital, who daily fight in the theaters in the surgical treatment of cancer. Similarly, they have excelled in undergraduate and graduate medical teaching in the training of residents of this specialty.

The authors agree with an old proverb referenced by Valenzuela:(5) "The ideal surgeon should have the mind of Aesculapius, the eyes of an eagle, the heart of a lion and the hands of a woman." Possibly it did not refer to the physical characteristics of a woman, but it did invoke some characteristic of the feminine nature; reasons that reaffirm the potential of women in surgical rooms.



1. Vaquero C, Del Río L, Fidalgo L, Del Blanco I, Diez M, San Norberto E. Elena Céspedes. La asombrosa historia de una mujer que ejerció de cirujana como varón. Rev Esp Investig Quir. REIQ [Internet]. 2019 [citado 02/05/2020];22(2):[aprox. 3 p.]. Disponible en: https://pesquisa.bvsalud.org/portal/resource/pt/ibc-184391

2. Ramos Cordero AE, Martínez López D. Las médicas cubanas en el 150 aniversario de Laura Martínez de Carvajal y del Camino. Rev Cubana Salud Pública [Internet]. 2019 [citado 19/11/2020];45(2):[aprox. 2 p.]. Disponible en: http://www.revsaludpublica.sld.cu/index.php/spu/article/view/1734/1251

3. Castañeda Abascal I, Solís Solís S. Desigualdades atribuibles al género entre cirujanos(as). Rev Cubana Salud Publica [Internet]. 2002 [citado 02/12/2020];28(2):[aprox. 10 p.]. Disponible en: http://scielo.sld.cu/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0864-34662002000200004

4. Lami HA, Bingener J. Faculty Diversity at Academic Surgical MeetingsOpportunity for Action? J Gastrointest Surg [Internet]. 2020 [citado 02/12/2020];24(5):[aprox. 4 p.]. Disponible en: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31515759/

5. Valenzuela M. La mujer cirujano: ¿Todavía un "cuento para niñas rebeldes"? Rev Cir [Internet]. 2020 [citado 02/12/2020];72(1):[aprox. 1 p.]. Disponible en: https://www.scielo.cl/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S2452-45492020000100007



Declaration of interests

The authors declare not to have any interest conflicts.



Authors' contribution

Conceptualization of the article, preparation and review of the final report: Sarait Rojas Hernández, Yeney Espinosa Rodríguez and Josué Rojas Fuentes.



This article has been published under the Creative Commons license.

Copyright (c) 2022 EDUMECENTRO

Licencia de Creative Commons
Esta obra está bajo una licencia de Creative Commons Reconocimiento-NoComercial-CompartirIgual 4.0 Internacional.