Dr Heidi McAlpine is a neurosurgery registrar at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne. Today, she gives us fantastic insight into what it’s like being the only female registrar currently on the program! While occasionally being mistaken for another, more junior member of the team on ward rounds, Heidi thoroughly enjoys her work. She initially wanted to be a neurologist but loved surgery, eventually finding a field that combined her two passions.

Nowadays, her typical day lasts from 7-5 (eek), and involves a mix between clinic and theatre. Listen in to hear some of the awe-inspiring cases she has led or been part of. This high-risk, high-reward specialty lends itself to immense reward from managing the “unexpected” and the adrenaline rush it provides. It provides fantastic vaiety. Nevertheles, she has had to address many uncomfortable and heartbreaking situations, such as breaking the news to family that the team cann’t resuscitate their loved one. It is also difficult “when things don’t go to plan”, as the slightest deviation can have devestating consequences,  making it a “considered” decision to undergo surgery.

From Dr McAlpine’s perspective, neurosurgery constitutes a significant time commitment, but not one that should get in the way of pursuing one’s own life outside of medicine, including starting a family. She encourages all female medical students (including you guys!) to enter the program to show that it’s doable, as doctors will change the system by “pushing those boundaries” and “highlighting and addressing” issues within the program. To everyone else, she urges us to “experience everything that we can”, especially “hands on” activities, “look after each other”, and do what we enjoy.

We hope you guys enjoy this podcast! Feel free to send through any questions you may have for Dr Heidi McAlpine, and give us feedback on this week’s episode by filling out the survey.

Pathway into Neurosurgery

Medical School →  Internship → Surgical Education and Training program (3 years) → Advanced Surgical Training in Neurosurgery (4 years) → Consultant

Source: FRACS


According to the Australian Government Taxation Data, in the 2013-14 income year we had approximately:

  • 26 female neurosurgeons earning an average of $323,682
  • 142 male neurosurgeons earning an average of $577,674
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TMC036: Neurosurgery and Women in Medicine with Dr Heidi McAlpine
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