Dr. Harjit Kaur – Breast & Endocrine Surgeon
Growing up surrounded by doctors – her father, uncles, elder brother, and sister all went into medicine – Dr. Harjit Kaur initially decided to go to law school instead. “It was the best thing I did, because it made me realise I’m more of a hands-on people’s person who needs the human touch,” she says. A few years later, as a house officer in Ipoh, her path as a surgeon took root.
“At that point, I never really thought women could be surgeons – there were so few around – and it was very much a male domain. I assumed the next best thing would be gynaecology, but my boss in the surgical department told me, ‘No, I’m going to make a surgeon out of you.’ I suppose he saw something that I didn’t know I had. He became my mentor and changed my entire career overnight.”
Today, Dr. Harjit is one of the country’s most experienced breast and endocrine surgeons, with a medical practice in Prince Court Medical Centre. She also specialises in oncoplastic breast surgery, where she reconstructs a new breast straight after performing a mastectomy. “When you can do it yourself without involving a plastic surgeon, it’s the best thing you can offer the patient. Every woman must be offered reconstruction, especially now that the techniques are so refined – and then it’s her choice whether she wants to do it or not, because no two women are alike. For some, their entire recovery depends very much on these physical or psychological aspects.”
In Dr. Harjit’s opinion, the only choice a woman should not have to make is between her professional and personal life. “You can be a surgeon, a wife, and a mother. It’s tough but doable, if you know what you want and can manage your time. I mean, it wasn’t easy: I had my daughter and son while studying for my Master of Surgery at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, but if you put things on hold, it becomes a lot more difficult. You shouldn’t have to choose a career against having a family – you can do both.”