Meet our members: Pauline McGough

Posted 03 Mar 2020

Pauline McGough FRCOG FFSRH, Consultant in Community Sexual and Reproductive Health shares her SRH career journey and what has inspired her almost 40-year career.

What first inspired you to work in the area of SRH? 

Growing up in Queensland, which was culturally conservative and very religious, I saw first-hand the consequences of restrictions on women’s reproductive choices. Going through medical school in Australia in the 1980s as one of relatively few women led me to think a lot about reproductive rights.

I did an elective module at Family Planning Queensland and met some amazing female GPs who were trying to change things and that lit a fire in me that has never gone out.

Once I qualified, I worked as a GP and obstetric registrar with the aim of becoming a rural GP, before deciding on a working holiday in the UK. After meeting the man I eventually married, I looked for opportunities to develop my women’s health interests in the UK.

When you arrived in the UK what did you do? 

Once in the UK, I did O&G training in the West of Scotland, then took on a contraceptive research post and followed the old sub-specialty program in community gynaecology, which is now SRH. In 2006 I became a consultant in O&G/subspecialist in SRH and got a post at Sandyford, which is a busy integrated SRH service in the West of Scotland.

I got the opportunity to work with the late Alison Bigrigg (FSRH President 2001 – 2005) who supported the development of my leadership and management interests as well as clinical skills as a consultant.

In 2012 I became Clinical Director for Sandyford and Lead SRH Clinician in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board serving a population of 1.2 million. For about 4 years I’ve chaired the national SRH Lead Clinicians’ Group and I’ve also been involved in the Scotland CMO Taskforce.

I chaired a group developing clinical pathways for services for adult and child victims of rape, sexual assault or sexual abuse until August 2019. I’m currently the clinical lead on a West of Scotland initiative to provide trauma informed cytology clinics to people who have experienced sexual violence.

All these roles involve working in partnership with a range of people from various disciplines, across regions and nationally.  I do fewer clinics than ever before (about a day a week) and these are mainly focused on training our staff as we currently undergo major transformational change.

What do you enjoy most about working in SRH? 

SRH has been a wonderful career choice. Some of what has happened has been luck – including working in Glasgow at the right time to apply for the new training program as it emerged – and some of it has been following my passion.

Over time I’ve extended my interest beyond clinical aspects of women’s health and contraception to the interface between sexual health and public health and how we demonstrate the value of providing access to good quality SRH for everyone who needs it.

"SRH is such a small specialty and we all have a responsibility to make it thrive."

As my role changes, I don’t get the immediate satisfaction from patient care as often as I did, but I love working with fantastic colleagues from a range of disciplines and localities who share passion and vision - and the variety of roles means that no two days are alike.

I welcome opportunities to improve care at the whole population level, even though the changes can be glacially slow and sometimes feel like they will never come, and also working collaboratively to make systems more responsive to the needs of the public and the staff who serve them (also glacially slow sometimes).

How did you get involved with the FSRH?

I have been involved in the FSRH since being a post-membership trainee and love the opportunity to work across nations and regions with like-minded enthusiastic people and develop supportive networks. SRH is such a small specialty and we all have a responsibility to make it thrive.

"I welcome opportunities to improve care at the whole population level […] and also working collaboratively to make systems more responsive to the needs of the public and the staff who serve them."

I’ve had various roles in FSRH including EMQ question writer and OSCE examiner; curriculum committee member and chair; chair of the Scotland Committee reporting to Council, and briefly acting support to the Clinical Effectiveness Unit when the Unit was in Glasgow. Because of my current roles I’ve withdrawn from FSRH activity apart from membership of the Scotland Committee.

The Scotland committee meets in person twice a year but is active all the time - disseminating good practice, contributing to policy development and supporting each other in the challenges that leadership can bring.

How do you spend your free time? 

Apart from work, I am very geeky about crime fiction, particularly with female protagonists. I make patchwork quilts for as many people as I can, but the backlog is very large just now. I hang out with my dog, my family - including my 3-year-old grandson, and know a lot more than I ever thought possible about superhero comics (husband’s passion) and Paw Patrol (grandson’s passion)!

Find out more about the work of FSRH's Scotland committee.