Replay 075 – Conflict is essential to collaboration

The barriers that women face hold all of us back. Listen to hear how Dr Alice Stewart overcame all sorts of obstacles to find a correlation between x-raying pregnant women and childhood cancer.

Today is International Women’s Day, so we thought we would reshare one of our favourite stories from Anecdotally Speaking about an inspirational woman. That woman is Dr Alice Stewart, a renowned physician who found a correlation between pregnant women receiving x-rays and increases in childhood cancer fatalities.

Mark tells the story, having first heard it in Margaret Heffernan’s Ted Talk, Dare to Disagree, which you can watch here.

For more stories about inspirational women, check out the following episodes: 

Steve Jobs’ story about conflict, which we featured in 021 – Rolling stones to hidden gems, is mentioned.

For your storybank

Tags: collaboration, conflict, data storytelling, gender, medical

This story starts at 01:07

In the 1950s, Dr Alice Stewart broke through all sorts of barriers. She became a physician in a male-dominated profession and continued to work after both marriage and children, which was uncommon at the time.

She was a great physician—one of the youngest to be admitted to the Royal College of Physicians. And she wanted to solve a significant problem.

At the time, there were rising incidences of childhood cancer. No one knew why, but there were all sorts of theories.

Alice noticed that most sick children were from affluent families, which was odd. These children usually had lower mortality. But finding the cause was like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Alice had to find out as much as she could about the mothers, their pregnancies, and the births. She looked at how much exercise the mothers did, their diet, whether they drank alcohol during pregnancies, and numerous other things. Her efforts resulted in mountains and mountains of data.

Once she crunched the numbers, Alice discovered, with much statistical clarity, that the thing that was causing childhood cancer was that the mothers had received x-rays while pregnant.

She published her findings in The Lancet in 1956. Then, she quickly worked to prove her research, as she knew that she wouldn’t have any more test subjects once x-rays on pregnant women inevitably ceased.

She decided to hire a statistician, George Neal, to disprove her. But her data was too strong.

Nonetheless, it took 25 years for American and British Medical establishments to stop the practice of x-raying pregnant women. Dr Alice Stewart’s research made an incredible impact, and many people considered her worthy of a Nobel Prize.

About  Anecdote International

Anecdote International is a global training and consulting company, specialising in utilising storytelling to bring humanity back to the workforce. Anecdote is now unique in having a global network of over 60 partners in 28 countries, with their learning programs translated into 11 languages, and customers who incorporate these programs into their leadership and sales enablement activities.

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