Envisioning an Empowered Future: Malaysia’s First Women Ophthalmology Forum Commemorates International Women's Day, Spotlighting Women's Inclusion, Empowerment, and Innovation in Healthcare

Envisioning an Empowered Future: Malaysia’s First Women Ophthalmology Forum Commemorates International Women's Day, Spotlighting Women's Inclusion, Empowerment, and Innovation in Healthcare

KUALA LUMPUR, 6 March 2024 — Malaysia’s ophthalmology community kicked off celebrations for International Women's Day early with the inaugural Malaysia Women Ophthalmology Forum, Empowering Visions. In line with the 2024 theme of International Women’s Day Inspiring Inclusion, the forum, organised by Roche Malaysia Sdn Bhd, the Malaysian branch of the global multinational healthcare company, centred on women and their contributions in healthcare — specifically, within the field of ophthalmology.

Recent studies reveal that while inching towards gender parity, the increase in the proportion of females in ophthalmology had not translated to an increase in female representation in leadership positions. Instead, globally, women make up only 25%-30% of ophthalmologists, with an even lower representation in leadership roles and surgical sub-specialisations.1

Moderated by Freda Liu of The Shift Asia, the forum panellists include Datuk Dr. Nor Fariza binti Ngah, Deputy Director of Health, Research & Technical Support, from the Malaysian Ministry of Health, Dr. Tara Mary George from Sunway Medical Centre, and Dr. Shamala Retnasabapathy of Hospital Sungai Buloh, with opening remarks by Choong Mei Chen, Ophthalmology Country Disease Area Lead for Roche Malaysia, Vietnam, Philippines and Indonesia.

Topics for discussion covered a multitude of areas, including breaking barriers, overcoming stereotypes, patient care, the importance of interpersonal skills, the significance of continuous education as well as the professional development of women in the medical profession.

Opening the field was Datuk Dr. Nor Fariza, who noted how women offered a unique perspective in medicine; She highlighted, "Women bring a distinct perspective that enriches the profession and elevates patient care. In a domain where empathy, communication, and meticulousness reign supreme, women's inherent strengths make them indispensable contributors. Moreover, diverse representation ensures healthcare systems are attuned to the varied needs of patients, including those specific to women. By championing and empowering women in ophthalmology and healthcare at large, we not only advance gender equality but also enhance the caliber and efficacy of healthcare provision for all."

This was echoed by Dr. Tara, as she discussed the importance of women in medicine from the angle of patient care and interpersonal relationships; “In ophthalmology, where patients often face concerns about their vision and well-being, it is the compassionate approach commonly associated with us women which can significantly enhance patient care. Through empathetic communication and understanding, we can alleviate fears, clarify treatment plans, address patient concerns with as much sensitivity and understanding as possible, and cultivate a supportive environment where patients feel valued and heard.”

Both points were supported by Dr. Shamala, who added “, the supportive role of family is pivotal in achieving work-life balance, contributing to the empowerment of women in their professional endeavors. What cannot be neglected is continuous education and professional development, including staying abreast of the latest advancements in ophthalmology. This is another way of showcasing our commitment to providing the highest standard of care to their patients while contributing to the advancement of the field as a whole — and how we pave the way for greater inclusivity, diversity, and progress within the profession.”

"As a leader and a woman in the field of ophthalmology, I am driven by the vision of creating an inclusive environment where women can truly flourish, contributing their unique perspectives," said Choong Mei Chen. "Initiatives such as the Women in Ophthalmology Forum underscore our unwavering commitment to championing diversity and inclusion. These initiatives send a resounding message of support and empowerment. Together, let us boldly challenge the status quo, dismantle barriers, and pave the way for a future where every individual, regardless of gender, enjoys equal opportunities to excel."

All specialists reiterated the monumental contributions of women within the field, despite enduring persistent resistance. They underscored the criticality of magnifying women's voices in healthcare, nurturing an environment conducive to collaboration, camaraderie, and reciprocal trust and comprehension.

As the world commemorates International Women's Day, the inaugural forum of the Empowering Vision series stands as a beacon heralding a future of progress and inclusivity in healthcare. By championing the inclusion of women in our field, Roche works to forge a path towards a more equitable and respectful world, where every individual, regardless of gender, is afforded equal opportunities and respect.

About Roche

Roche is a global pioneer in pharmaceuticals and diagnostics focused on advancing science to improve people’s lives. The combined strengths of pharmaceuticals and diagnostics, as well as growing capabilities in the area of data-driven medical insights help Roche deliver truly personalised healthcare. Roche is working with partners across the healthcare sector to provide the best care for each person.

Roche is the world’s largest biotech company, with truly differentiated medicines in oncology, immunology, infectious diseases, ophthalmology and diseases of the central nervous system. Roche is also the world leader in in vitro diagnostics and tissue-based cancer diagnostics, and a frontrunner in diabetes management. In recent years, Roche has invested in genomic profiling and real-world data partnerships and has become an industry-leading partner for medical Insights.

Founded in 1896, Roche continues to search for better ways to prevent, diagnose and treat diseases and make a sustainable contribution to society. The company also aims to improve patient access to medical innovations by working with all relevant stakeholders. More than thirty medicines developed by Roche are included in the World Health Organization Model Lists of Essential Medicines, among them life-saving antibiotics, antimalarials and cancer medicines. Moreover, for the twelfth consecutive year, Roche has been recognised as one of the most sustainable companies in the Pharmaceuticals Industry by the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI).

The Roche Group, headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, is active in over 100 countries and in 2020 employed more than 100,000 people worldwide. In 2020, Roche invested CHF 12.2 billion in R&D and posted sales of CHF 58.3 billion. Genentech, in the United States, is a wholly owned member of the Roche Group. Roche is the majority shareholder in Chugai Pharmaceutical, Japan. For more information, please visit www.roche.com.

Roche has been present in Malaysia since 1972, when the sales and distribution of products was managed by a third party distributor. Since then, Roche has established its operations to include Roche (Malaysia) Sdn. Bhd., the pharmaceutical business; Roche Diagnostics (M) Sdn. Bhd., the diagnostics business and Roche Services (Asia Pacific) Sdn. Bhd. (also referred to as Roche Services & Solutions APAC). With a total staff strength of over 1,200, Roche has grown into one of the leading healthcare companies in Malaysia that provides holistic healthcare solutions to healthcare practitioners and patients. For more information, please visit www.roche.com.my

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  1. Optometry, S. (2023, November 30). An Eye on Gender Equality: A review of the evolving role and representation of women in ophthalmology. Smart Optometry

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