International Women's Day 2022 Meet Dr Laura Ismail

International Women’s Day | Meet Dr Laura Ismail

March 8, 2022

To mark International Women’s Day 2022 and Endometriosis Action Month we wanted to introduce you to some of the amazing women involved in our Endometriosis project. Say hello to Dr Laura Ismail from King’s Fertility.

What is your job and what does it involve?

I am currently a clinical research fellow in reproductive medicine at King’s Fertility.  This involves seeing patients with a desire in preserving fertility and on the other hand, managing infertility in patients having difficulty conceiving. I see patients from the start of their fertility journey, perform and support them through a multitude of investigations and treatments, all the way to the end, where we hope to have the pleasure and success in celebrating a pregnancy. Unfortunately, such journeys can take time, but this time does harbour the building of relationships with patients that you don’t often experience in other specialties of medicine.

My research study is named DEFEND (Developing an US-MRI-biomarker Fusion model for Endometriosis). Endometriosis is a complex chronic condition that affects the female anatomy, where the lining of the womb deposits outside the womb, commonly in and around the pelvic organs. This tissue reacts to the female hormones during the cycle just as the lining would, causing bleeding in these areas. This leads to inflammation and scarring, presenting as pain, bladder and bowel symptoms, and infertility. Currently, the gold standard to diagnose endometriosis is by key-hole surgery, laparoscopy. Patients may be apprehensive and reluctant to proceed with a surgery purely to diagnose a condition that may prove to not even be present. This means that patients may, albeit reluctantly, live with their debilitating symptoms to avoid their fears of ‘going under the knife.’  Our purpose in this research is to assess whether using combined imaging methods, from MRI and Ultrasound, can improve the diagnosis of endometriosis, saving invasive surgical techniques for the treatment itself. 

In my job, I don’t only have the blessed opportunity to continue learning and applying current clinical knowledge into my clinical practice, but also have the opportunity to help develop ground-breaking novel prototype algorithms, potentially changing the future of medicine in this diagnostic space.

Can you describe your career path so far?

Very much orientated around women!

I am a qualified Obstetrician and Gynaecologist and completed my training over the last 10 years mostly in Imperial College NHS Healthcare Trust, St. Mary’s Hospital, and Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.

In the last year, I took a clinical research fellowship post in Reproductive Medicine at King’s Fertility, where I also started the DEFEND research study. My research has given me the privilege of working alongside leading medical experts and some of the most influential organisations in the industry, all with the collaborative intention to improve the diagnostic accuracy of endometriosis, hoping to impact millions of affected women worldwide.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

Sometimes medical issues present themselves as a puzzle and having the ability to piece all the elements together to achieve a positive outcome for your patients, is one of the greatest privileges of being a doctor.

However, my role doesn’t involve me working with a ‘puzzle.’ This is a person’s life. These are couples trying so desperately to have a baby. These are often healthy people, in their most vulnerable times coming to you as a ‘patient,’ helpless and in despair. So although achieving a positive outcome is undeniably the greatest of rewards, sometimes the rewards for me, are in the steps that lead up to that point. There may be physical, emotional and psychological stresses on your patient before any success, however, them knowing that I will treat, support and care for them to the utmost of my ability through every step of their journey, is something I strive myself to achieve every single day. That no matter what the outcome, we as a team did our best.

I feel that sense of security, confidence, and comfort from my patients with me, and that is what I enjoy most about my role as a doctor… knowing that they always feel heard.

What are the greatest challenges within your role?

Patients come in faith to you as a doctor to get answers, and sometimes not knowing or not having an answer is the hardest thing to deliver. Sometimes having no diagnosis for a patient can be just as painful to hear as a bad diagnosis because there’s nothing to ‘fix.’ For example, a cause cannot be found in one in four couples suffering from infertility, and relaying that to a couple can be difficult. Couples often express an overwhelming feeling of failure as they feel they cannot perform one of the basic functions of life, without even a reason.

Counselling your patients, supporting them with encouraging next steps and managing their expectations can help alleviate such destructive emotions, and can help leave your patients feeling positive despite the ‘negative news.’ I stick with my above approach, of giving my all at every step because it can usually overcome these hard challenges and reminds us all that unfortunately, doctors are not infallible.

What is your advice to women who may be inspired to follow your career path?

Love what you do; love to give, and love to give selflessly. Give 150% because when it comes to a patient’s life and health it’s never enough.

Being a doctor is a humbling career. It will give you the opportunity to live a fulfilling, purposeful life, to wake up every morning knowing that you are always making a difference. That’s a gift that I think very few professions offer and I’m grateful to say that’s my career.

It is tiring, it is demanding, and it is taxing on you in every possible way…  but as I say, if you love it and you do it for the right reasons, then your drive will rid all the struggles that come with it… and you’ll learn how to sleep happily and productively for 5 hours a night!

How will you be marking International Women’s Day 2022?

By going to work! Sixty years ago women may not have been able to do this. It’s a privilege to be able to go to work and have this role today.

I’ll also praise and celebrate my mother all day as to me, she is everything international Women’s Day represents! ❤️