International Day of Women & Girls in Science: Dr. Tina Tang

February 11, 2023 is International Day of Women & Girls in Science, a time to focus attention on promoting full and equal access and participation of women and girls in science, technology, engineering and math. Today, we’re honoured to highlight Dr. Tina Tang, an Orbis Future Vision Leaders member, who is starting a fellowship in retinal surgery.

Dr. Tina Tang has grown up around the world. Born in Beijing, her family later emigrated to Montreal and then to Boston. Throughout her childhood, a love for science motivated her and it was what spurred her decision to do her undergraduate degree in biochemistry at Montreal’s McGill University. Wanting a more hands-on role in working with patients, she then pursued a Master’s degree in nursing – but something was missing.

Dr. Tina Tang began her medical journey in nursing but realized she wanted more.

I learned a lot, and real­ly enjoyed being in the hos­pi­tal and work­ing with patients, but there were sit­u­a­tions where I felt frus­trat­ed that I could­n’t be more involved in deter­min­ing the treat­ment plan and the diag­no­sis of the patients I was car­ing for. And when they would ask me ques­tions, it was hard for me to tell them I did­n’t know.”

These feelings helped her realize she was better suited to the role of physician. Now a resident at the University of Manitoba, Tang is thrilled that she made the leap. She discovered a love for ophthalmology during her studies at McGill, then did a research year in Ottawa working in the area of ocular pathology – meeting a wealth of mentors and peers along the way who made her feel confident in her choice to pursue retinal surgery.

One of the deciding factors on retina, she explains, was spending time working as a resident in Manitoba. In the province, the impact of the social determinants of health, housing insecurity and poverty, were stark. During her residency, Tang embarked on a Master’s of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore so she could better understand how these factors affected a population and ways she could work to improve outcomes for her patients experiencing them.

Dr. Tang discovered a love for ophthalmology during her studies at Montreal’s McGill University.

As a retina specialist, Tang will be joining a profession with relatively few female members. In Manitoba, where she currently lives, there are no female retina surgeons. While she has had excellent male mentors in her career so far, she knows that representation is important to inspire future generations, and she hopes to one day be a mentor herself.

“It definitely helps you envision yourself in that role,” she says, of seeing other women in medicine and in particular in specialized fields. “It’s hard to want to dedicate so much time and effort if you think it's not possible. Being able to visualize and see people like you doing things you want to do is very encouraging, especially during hard times when you feel like giving up.” She notes that the women in the field whom she has met and worked with so far have had an enormous impact on her, and that having diverse perspectives and dynamics can only improve ophthalmology as a whole.

Now moving onto her fellowship in Toronto, Tang is excited to start her career, where she expects global eye health will play a large part. As an Orbis Future Vision Leaders member, she has seen many potential opportunities where her expertise could play a role internationally. “I've always wanted to do some component of global health, but I never knew how it would be applicable in practice until I went into ophthalmology and discovered Orbis,” she says. “It definitely helped solidify how I can use some of the skills I've learned to meet my future goals of contributing more to global eye health.”

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