Paula wears our Highclere dress in Cobalt, £198 (above)
Tell me about your childhood.
I grew up on the Great Lakes of Northern Ontario, Canada, as part of a large family. In the summer we splashed about in Lake Superior on camping trips, while the cold, snowy winters were spent skiing. I was educated at a French school and my extra-curricular time was spent playing team sports, learning the piano and taking Highland dance lessons. I had enough siblings to form a baseball team, so there was endless fun and companionship and never a dull moment!
In a nutshell, how would you describe your job?
Varied, unpredictable and fulfilling; medicine is constantly evolving, with innovative research and new breakthroughs happening all around me. This is an exciting time to be at the forefront of such a challenging profession.
Run us through your typical working day.
There is no such thing as a typical working day on the frontline of the NHS. One day I could be rushing to theatre to deliver a baby by crash Caesarean section, followed by another emergency necessitating speedy delivery of a newborn by forceps or ventouse. The next day, I could be in a clinic discussing medical complications of pregnancy, or women’s health issues such as period pains, infertility or menopause. I also perform operations on women with reproductive problems such as ovarian cysts, uterine fibroids and ectopic pregnancies.
Paula wears our Exeter dress in Golden Flower Print, £225 (right)
Tell me about your career highs and lows.
Doctors are goal-driven and always seeking the next career high. For me, getting to operate with world leaders in gynaecological cancer surgery and research is a huge privilege and one that is a constant source of inspiration. I get to be a part of bringing new life into the world and healing people, which is incredible and humbling; but, inevitably, lives are lost from time to time and this is a major low.
What is your biggest weakness?
My biggest weakness is not going to bed on time. I often find that as the day draws to a close, I struggle to reward myself for what I have accomplished and instead focus on trying to tick a few more jobs off my to-do list. I suppose choosing a career that is known for long hours and busy night shifts has exacerbated my night owl tendencies! To address this, I am reading Matthew Walker’s book Why we Sleep, and making a conscious effort to go to bed early when I can.
What piece of career advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
Knuckle down from the start and realise that you are as impressive as the people working around you. Be specific in setting goals and be confident that you will achieve them. By surrounding yourself with the leaders in your field and staying focussed, you will be well placed for opportunities that are right in front of you.
Paula wears our Berkshire jumpsuit in Ivory, £225 (left)
What is your go to workwear style?
When I’m not in scrubs, scrub cap and surgical clogs, my go-to workwear is a tailored knee-length dress with pockets, usually in navy or dark green. I accessorise this classic outfit with diamond stud earrings, my favourite silver necklace and comfortable heels.
Tell me about your worst office fashion faux pas?
This would have to be Crocs. Although some may say that they are a necessary evil when you are on your feet in the operating theatre for hours on end, I can’t bring myself to adopt the trend. On my first day back to work after maternity leave, I realised that I had forgotten to add surgical shoes to my return-to-work shopping list. I had to make an emergency pit stop and ended up buying a ghastly pair of rust-coloured, faux-fur-lined Crocs. Needless to say, these were soon replaced by a stylish and understated pair of leather clogs!
What keeps you busy when you’re not in the office?
I have a 16-month-old son who keeps me busy and forever entertained. I also like long-distance running. I ran the London marathon a few years ago, setting myself a time goal of less than four hours. When I finished in 3hrs 52mins I was ecstatic… and hooked. I am now training to run the Paris marathon, in the hopes of improving my time to qualify for Boston.
Paula wears our Hamilton dress in Rosehip, £198 (right)
Have you mastered a good work-life balance?
No, I have definitely not mastered it, but I strive in the daily pursuit of it. When I manage to make it home from the hospital in time to read my son a bedtime story, then sit and relax in the evening with my husband, I get a lovely sense of a balanced day. However, I am sometimes delayed due to a long operating list, a busy clinic or a very sick patient and this can scupper my attempts to maintain equilibrium.
What is your favourite Libby outfit at the moment?
My Exeter golden yellow print, which is especially useful for beautiful spring weather in London. In the winter months, it was my Berkshire black jumpsuit. It is the first and only jumpsuit that I have found that fits perfectly, and is stylish, elegant and comfortable. It ticks the boxes and gave me confidence on returning to work following maternity leave.
Lastly, what is your key piece of advice for other women?
My key piece of advice is to know and appreciate your worth and the value of your time. Identify within yourself what your key motivators are and strive each day to get a few steps closer to your ultimate career goal. If you find yourself doing a project that does not seem to fit, ask yourself why you are doing it and adjust your priorities accordingly. Be ambitious yet realistic when setting goals and reward yourself when you accomplish what you set out to do in a day, even if it’s something as simple as a decent mid-morning flat white from the corner café or a glass of wine and a hot bath at the end of the day.
Paula wears our Dartmouth dress in Cobalt & Navy, £198 (left)
Interview: Lilli Brant
Photographer: Mafalda Silva
Accessories: Paula's own
Location: Queen Charlotte's and Chelsea Hospital, London