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Jo Martin on Women in Science

Women in STEM

At the 4th Digital Pathology Congress in London, we caught up with the president of the Royal College of Pathologists, Jo Martin. She gave us an insight into her career and advice for women getting into science.

A typical day for me…

Most days would involve checking emails, perhaps social media as well, planning the day as I’m on the train. By the time I get to whichever base I’m going to, often the Royal College, I prepare for meetings there. I work with the vice presidents and the senior team there to look at issues in pathology and how we can help the pathology community. We’ve got lots and lots of different programs on, with specialist advisory committees and projects and work on the workforce, safety, training, examinations and best practice. There is always plenty to do!

At Royal College of Pathologists, we advise the NHS, devolved nations and international health services on digital pathology as well as a range of other areas. We are a professional organisation so we must make sure that the advice that we give is grounded in members’ experience and what’s going on. We have also work with charities and patient groups, for example our work with Cancer Research UK trying to get more people into pathology and people to stay in pathology, including with the use of digital systems.

Towards the early evening, if I dont have an evening meeting or event, I will go back to the Royal London Hospital to see if there are any cases to report. I have one day a week to report renal biopsies or gastrointestinal specialist cases which I love.

The NHS and digital pathology…

I think there is an increasing recognition that digital pathology is one of the solutions that will help us. Some sites are starting to use it live, and there have been some big projects going on in Leeds, Coventry, North Wales. With the approval of more and more systems, I think there will be more recognition of the potential of this, but we do need to invest in the IT infrastructure to support this and the underlying LIMS systems.

My career in science…

I think throughout my career, there has been a transformation and there is now an acceptance that anyone can do anything. There are a lot of assumptions around women, but the more that we stand up and do what we can do, the more it becomes part of the fabric.

One of the things that some of the professional service firms have done research on is that occasionally certain groups, particularly women, won’t put themselves forward. I would never be president if I had not said, “Actually yes. I will put my nomination in”. We must be a little bit brave and we must be open to the opportunities.

There are so many different scientific careers. At the moment, there is not one career. Science is not one career. It’s just a vast brilliance panoply of stuff that you can enjoy. I love my job. I learn something new every day. I work with brilliant people from all over, all different countries, all different backgrounds. I learn amazing staff and they do amazing things, and it’s absolutely joyful.

There’s always more to do and there are still issues. I think there needs to be a degree of persistence, don’t give up, keep at it. But I’m a great believer that keep positive and keep working and keep going. Don’t be shy about what you can do. The pathology professionals are particularly amazing. We’ve got haematologists doing gene therapy for haemophilia. We’ve got histopathologists discovering new treatments for cancer, virologists new vaccines, new treatments for hepatitis C, astonishing stuff and really amazing stuff. My best advice for women wanting to get into science is – just go for it.


Professor Jo Martin is a practising histopathologist and President of the Royal College of Pathologists.


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