MBChB, FRACP, FRCPA, Spec Cert in Clinical Research (Oncology)
Associate Professor Judith Trotman is the Director of the Haematology Clinical Research Unit and a Senior Staff Specialist at Concord Repatriation Hospital, Sydney. Dedicated to education she remains the coordinator for GMP1/SMP Haematology Block at Concord Clinical School. Professionally she has built a broad clinical trial portfolio in the treatment of blood cancers with particular expertise across the spectrum of lymphoma. Committed to clinical research Judith and her team have built one of the largest clinical research units in Australia. She is a member of the Australasian Leukaemia Lymphoma Group (ALLG) Scientific Advisory Committee and is Chair of the Low Grade Lymphoma Group. She is a member of Sydney Heath Partners, Sydney Research Council, Concord Hospital HREC Scientific Review Committee, SLHD Streamlining clinical trials working group, Concord Medical Staff Council Executive and is the Chair of the Multidisciplinary Team Meeting Concord Haematology.
Professor Trotman is the ALLG Principal Investigator for various national lymphoma trials; REMARC, IRiC, RePLY and the RATHL study which delivered PET-adapted therapy to patients with Hodgkin Lymphoma published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine 2016. She is an author of the international guidelines in staging and response assessment of Lymphoma and during a year in Lyon she led European researchers demonstrating the predictive power of PET imaging in follicular lymphoma, since published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology and Lancet Haematology. Dr. Trotman was co-inventor of the free cross-referral smart phone app ClinTrial Refer which delivers clinicians, research staff and patients instant knowledge of the whereabouts and recruitment criteria for current recruiting haematology trials in Australia and New Zealand. This App has been associated with breaking down traditional hospital silos through collaboration across NSW/ACT Haematology with an 8-fold increase in cross-referrals for trials. Sixteen other ClinTrial Refer Apps showcase the portfolios of other trial networks nationally and internationally.
Dr Trotman developed a methodology around her natural curiosity when beginning her research career as a medical student: awarded summer studentships to supplement her waitress & motel cleaning income while at Auckland University.
Dr. Trotman has received a multitude of awards for her work including the Premier’s Award for Outstanding Cancer Research, Clinical trials (2015), Local Woman of the Year (2016)- Drummoyne NSW, Best Lecturer Year 1 -University of Sydney Graduate Medical Programme (2015) and the Rotary Pride of Concord (2008).
Associate Professor Judith Trotman is a mother of six.
Do you think there is an unconscious bias present in Medicine? Are there specific examples you can think of that demonstrated this in your career?
I think there are unconscious bias’ that exist within womens’ own minds as well as that of men. For example, in my role as a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Australasian Leukaemia Lymphoma Group I am the sole woman in a committee of ten. While it is commented that women are not stepping up nor contributing as principal investigators, I suspect that (in accordance with alot of research as to why women are not on Company Boards) we unconsciously focus on criteria for why a woman is not qualified to be a member of an strategic committee. Whereas for men, we focus on the positives and tend to ignore where they may not fully meet the criteria.
I think that women exclude themselves from consideration as much as men exclude them. Women need to be reminded of their responsibility to step up and be active in the additional academic facets of clinical practice. They are active as clinician researchers in recruiting patients to clinical trials, but women tend to be more reluctant to act as a principal investigator, to take ownership of their original ideas conceive a trial and drive the research agenda themselves.
What are some of the personal barriers you have experienced in your career? Have they been as a result of your gender?
The absence of a clear mentor was my biggest career challenge in early years. As a junior staff specialist I had no clinical researchers to guide me. I designed study protocols that were unsuccessful until I wrote protocols that were. We built our research unit over 12 years from scratch. Initially it felt like a solo task until momentum built and I had the engagement of my colleagues, who like me, had had no prior experience of clinical research. I suspect given my clear research ambitions and drive, had I been male, there may have been a mentor step out for me…but I cannot be sure. Similarly, without a PhD to my name I believe I was not perceived as a credible researcher and the Unit grew in an environment where there was not a strong practice of clinical trials. To this day, there is a scepticism by some basic researchers about the credibility of clinical research, perceived by some as “patients to rent” for industry. Conversely, I see participation in quality trials as a means of our patients being at the cutting edge of medical developments.
I consider also the fortuitous appointment into my role as a junior staff specialist. I, who was the incumbent locum, and believe performing very well with a comparable CV in comparison to the male applicant who was offered the role. Fortunately he declined. I can’t help but wonder whether that might have been because I was sitting at the interview 32 weeks pregnant with twins applying for a full-time permanent position.
What are your tips for young women working in the medical profession?
If you choose to marry, marry well. Marry someone with a track record of domestic activity who will clearly share the workload and support your clinical and academic aspirations as you will theirs!
Juggle. I think balance is an elusive thing. And what is balance for one individual may seem very unbalanced to another. It’s a challenge teasing out what is urgent form what is important. For me there is just what I see as having a greater purpose and I love to do vs. what I love less,what has to be done and what I want to do. I’s just that constant juggle, the constant multitasking and so if you are to succeed in your endeavours you have to enjoy what you do, and take pleasure in your achievements. And collaborate +++
And tips for any mothers: Dump the guilt. It is not a productive emotion. Just as it is impossible to clearly separate work and personal life you will never be able to be all things to all the people you serve all the time: your children, your partner, your extended family, your patients, colleagues and students. A happy and satisfied clinician is a great mother even if she doesn’t do tuckshop duty very often. If you do do tuckshop, don’t try to juggle it with being on-call. My greatest crisis consult as a haematologist came while a six year old at the front of the lunch time queue was deciding between purchasing a green or red 5 cent jelly frog!
Observe clinicians, both men and women, to identify your role models and be a good fit as a mentor to growth through interpersonal connections at different phases of your life and career. And don’t forget you too can mentor others. Seek out happy and collaborative practices or department where the different skills and interests of the team members are nurtured. Confront any challenging issues with constructive language – don’t let worries fester. Finally, as a student and as a doctor always reflect on your practice. Reflect on your mistakes as much as the successes.