Bradford Teaching Hospitals is delighted to introduce its inaugural female consultant plastic surgeon to the surgical team.

Stephanie Young, a specialist in breast reconstruction for women who have undergone mastectomy, not only marks the first woman to join the team, but also stands as one of a mere 16% of female surgeons on a national scale, with a further 20% in the field of plastic surgery.

In addition to her rigorous 18-year training journey, commencing at the medical school in Dundee, Stephanie’s path towards realising her ambition of becoming a consultant surgeon has exemplified that it is indeed possible for female surgeons of the future to maintain a fulfilling surgical career, embrace motherhood, and cultivate a life beyond the workplace.

“Young female medical trainees need role models as it’s a tough business to become a surgeon, I certainly know that, but I also know that it’s worth it and you can have a good work-life balance – that is absolutely possible,” said Stephanie.

“I’m passionate about my job, about how I make a difference to how women feel after a mastectomy. It’s super-rewarding when I see the impact my work has on women whose whole sense of self has been changed by cancer, it’s so lovely when they look at a reconstruction and go “wow!”

From early on, Stephanie harboured a fervent desire to become a surgeon, to engage in substantial open surgeries. This entails enduring lengthy sessions in the theatre, sometimes spanning 10 to 12 hours, collaborating closely with a colleague. As a plastic surgeon, she also tends to trauma cases, individuals afflicted with skin cancer, and paediatric patients.

Nonetheless, her standout expertise lies in the intricate craft of microscopically fashioning a new breast utilising skin and fat harvested from the patient’s abdomen, a procedure commonly referred to as the DIEP flap. The prevalence of breast reconstructions employing the DIEP flap technique has surged, as it yields a supple, naturally contoured breast.

Numerous women who undergo mastectomy or lumpectomy procedures can opt for concurrent reconstruction. However, certain circumstances necessitate a waiting period before crafting a new breast from the patient’s own tissue becomes viable. For these women, the work of a plastic surgeon is nothing short of transformative, attests Stephanie.

“As a woman I know how a mastectomy can affect a woman’s confidence, how she relates to the world, so being able to help give that person part of them back is amazing.”

A few years ago, Bradford had to suspend its breast reconstruction service due to staffing shortages, exacerbated by the advent of COVID-19, causing patients to seek treatment in Leeds. Fortunately, the service is now operational once more, extending its specialized care at St Luke’s Hospital and Bradford Royal Infirmary, the designated surgical site.

Recently, Stephanie executed reconstructions subsequent to a double mastectomy – a milestone event not witnessed in well over five years at Bradford Teaching Hospitals.

Stephanie, a mother to a five-year-old, relishes her role in Bradford. She previously served as a registrar at the Trust in 2016, subsequently progressing to complete her consultant training, entailing placements across the country and a fellowship in Bristol, before returning to Bradford.

“I feel very supported here; it’s a great team and I really enjoy working with such a diverse patient population. I had a few job options for my first consultant role, but I decided on Bradford because it felt the right place to be.”

Looking ahead, Stephanie aspires to further enhance the service and the overall patient experience, institute a microsurgical programme, and serve as a guiding influence for junior female trainees.

“It’s nice to be back in Bradford and pay it forward, so to speak. I remember how supportive the breast team was when I was a registrar, so the impression you make on people means a lot.”