Lindork’s Lists: Q&A #18: Dr. Fiona Mattatall
Note: this is the public version of my email newsletter Q&A that gets sent to paid subscriber inboxes first every other Sunday. You can get these Q&As in your inbox first by becoming a paid subscriber.
Originally published to newsletter subscribers on Nov 28, 2021
The eighteenth person I’m profiling in my newsletter subscriber Q&A series is:
Alberta OB/GYN Dr. Fiona Mattatall
Getting to know Dr. Fiona Mattatall:
Dr. Fiona Mattatall is an Alberta Ob/Gyn who I first met after working with the Alberta Medical Association on a pandemic safety marketing campaign back in 2020. I started following Dr. Mattatall shortly after that, and have enjoyed the peek into her life that she shares on Twitter. Dr. Mattatall is passionate about womens health, trans health, and inclusive care, and that’s evident in her updates. She is also a big arts buff—and early on in the pandemic, started hosting a virtual “Pandemic Film Club” that brought together likeminded (or like-movied) Internet people to watch fun films.
Dr. Fiona Mattatall, like many doctors throughout the pandemic, has quickly become an active, credible, and wonderful voice, educator, and advocate around health care in Alberta, and I’m thrilled she is sharing a bit about herself and her work with readers.
She also has perhaps the most uterus / female reproductive parts-themed clothing and accessories of anyone I think I know, ha!
Learn more about Dr. Mattatall in this Q&A and be sure to follow her on Twitter.
Let’s Dive Into the Q&A with Dr. Mattatall:
Can you talk about the work you do as an OBGYN / Alberta physician?
What might a typical day look like? It is more like an average week as the days change all the time. I usually have two days in clinic (doing both Ob (obstetrics) and Gyn (gynaecology), one day doing gynaecology surgeries, one day (or night) shift in the hospital doing the busy Ob part of ObGyn, and one day (or night or both) shift on call from home doing the emergency Gyn part of ObGyn. Then on the side I teach medical students and residents.
How has it been different doing this work during a pandemic? Every single aspect of my job has changed: from wearing a mask when in spaces with patients and colleagues (which really interferes with communication) to multiple extra steps for every procedure we do to a decontamination process when I get home from work—not to mention advocating for patients and colleagues when it feels like our systems are letting them/us down.
Why did you want to become an OBGYN? Likely it is in the genes as my grandmother was a midwife! Also I was cared for by a great ObGyn in my late teens – having someone validate my health concerns inspired me to do the same. In medical school, I enjoyed both the medical aspects and surgical aspects of this job so it was a great fit.
What’s something that people might know about, that may be surprising about being an OBGYN?
That we are surgeons (for historical and misogynistic reasons this gets forgotten). Many don’t appreciate that the most common major surgical procedure in Canada is performed by ObGyn’s and is done on two patients at once! (Caesarean section).
Can you share some memorable moments or ‘successes’ or something you’ve been proud of, in your work as a doctor?
As I think back, there aren’t any big grand times but rather individual moments of success… helping a woman ensure she has reliable birth control, stopping heavy periods in a patient who found herself housebound once a month, or handing a new baby to a patient who had a long tough journey to parenthood. These everyday successes are what keep me working.
Can you share challenging moments, obstacles or even failures, you’ve had to overcome in the health field?
Working hard as an advocate for something missing in our system and seeing that work butt up against people or a system that does not have the same vision or priorities.
Can you tell me about your hobbies! What do you do for fun?
I love exploring pop culture: music, film, art. The pandemic has made me realize how much I need live music of all kinds: from the mosh pit to the philharmonic. I can’t wait to get back to the immersion of a movie theatre, where you can’t pause the film or check your texts. Since I was missing visiting art galleries during the pandemic I took an online course from MoMA to quench my thirst for visual art.
Can you talk about your relationship with social media? You are quite active on Twitter, and from what I have seen, have used it to advocate for other doctors, and the healthcare industry, over the last couple of years. You haven’t been shy about criticizing government too.
Why did you start using social media? I started out using it to connect with family and friends but ended up inspired by Dr. Jen Gunter to harness its power for advocacy.
What kind of content do you typically share? I try to balance (although not very well sometimes!) serious content like credible medical information with lighter content like pop culture. The past two years have drawn me into the world of politics. This all started with a proposal in Alberta that would have seen restricted access to reproductive health services.
If people are reading this and they don’t follow you, what would you say to explain why they might consider following you? They may find themselves entertained or angered, depending on the day and on their political viewpoints.
Can you share advice for others who may be interested in working in health care? What should they know?
Working in healthcare is both incredibly hard and incredibly rewarding.
Could you articulate “why you do what you do?”
Women and transgender/non-binary people can face many challenges due to biology (period problems, pregnancy for example). Historically these challenges have not been addressed and often worsened because they were ignored. ObGyn’s have the skills to help improve or overcome many of these challenges.
Wrapping up our Q&A:
What show would you recommend people watch on Netflix (or other streaming services) and why?
Schitts Creek. It is warm and inclusive, funny and emotional, sharp and sweet… the best example of Canadian television.
Is there a book or podcast you recently read (or doesn’t have to be recent) that you would recommend to others and why?
- Soul Music is a BBC4 podcast that takes a well known piece of music and over a half an hour dives into the background on the piece and interviews someone who has been moved by that music. I usually end up crying.
What is one of your favourite restaurants or stores you’d recommend in Edmonton?
Owl’s Nest in Calgary for books and gifts (and the best book recommendations around!)
What’s something about Alberta you love or recommend others check out?
The Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta. It is one of the world’s best palaeontology museums and is an active research station!
Thank you Dr. Mattatall for sharing your story!
You can connect with Dr. Mattatall on:
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