International Women’s Day Spotlight – Dr. Rebecca Skillen

Mar 7th, 2022

HPC Sports Doctor Rebecca Skillen

International Women's Day Spotlight - Dr. Rebecca Skillen

Welcome to this special Spotlight series on International Women’s Day. In Canada, International Women's Day 2022 celebrates the theme "Women Inspiring Women". At U of G, online and in-person events are planned to help amplify the inspiring contributions of women from within the University community and beyond. The Health and Performance Centre prioritizes sharing our practitioners' stories to showcase the expansive team of experts and community we have built. 

Meet HPC Sports Physician Dr. Rebecca Skillen who received her MD from McMaster University and completed her fellowship in Sport and Exercise Medicine at the Allan McGavin Sport Medicine Centre at the University of British Columbia. She has a MSc in exercise physiology from the University of California and worked as an exercise physiologist prior to entering medicine.  Dr. Skillen has been the team physician for the UBC women’s rugby team, BC Bears rugby team, and Canada women’s national soccer team. 

Dr. Skillen shares with us her experience in sports medicine and what the culture of gender equity in her field looks like.

Q: What drives you to do work in this field and what do you love about it?  

A: I have always loved sports and have wanted to work in a sport/exercise-related field for as long as I can remember. I love that through my work as a sports medicine physician, I get to help people return to (or safely continue) doing the activities that they enjoy after injury. I’m very fortunate to work with people of all ages and levels of sports involvement. What they all have in common is a motivation to be active. I share the same drive and can often relate to them on a personal level, having gone through several cycles of injury and recovery myself. 

Q: What piece of advice would you give to a woman looking to begin a career in your field?

A: Sport are male-dominated fields but I’ve worked with many amazing women in my career, and opportunities for women in this arena continue to expand. I would encourage women looking to work in sports medicine and related fields to find a mentor you respect (and who respects you and your career aspirations), and to be open to lots of diverse opportunities, especially during training and in your first years of practice. 

Q:  Tell us about your proudest career moment?

A: I feel most proud of my work when I’m able to make an obvious difference in someone’s life. When I see a person suffering from unresolved pain or an undiagnosed injury and I can give them some answers and a plan to move forward and meet their activity goals, I feel like I've done my job well.

Q:  If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?

A: Pursue what you are interested in and don’t worry about how other people perceive your goals.

Q: What does gender equity mean to you in your career? 

A: In medicine, gender equity is a work in progress. There are now more female students than male in Canadian medical schools, but the culture of medicine is still male-dominated. Men still fill the majority of leadership positions and many women in medicine, including some of my good friends and colleagues, continue to struggle for the respect they deserve. I would like to see more mentorship opportunities specifically for women, as well as increased female representation in leadership positions.