Iona Reid has travelled the world to get to the top in her chosen career as a surgeon.

She qualified at Trinity College, Dublin, in 1985, then moved to the US to a research post at the prestigious Mayo Clinic. After this she took up a registrar post in England, then returned briefly to Ireland before accepting a senior registrar post, again in England, later becoming a consultant surgeon at Glasgow's Victoria Infirmary, a post she combines with that of senior lecturer at Glasgow University.

But she is not convinced that it was her gender which demanded this. 'It is typical for Irish people to have to move around because surgery there is even more competitive, ' she says. 'I would have liked to have stayed in Ireland but there weren't any jobs.'

Ms Reid, in her 30s, is single. 'But I'm not sure you can blame this on my career, ' she says. However, travelling from country to country for work is not conducive to forming long-term relationships, she admits, and adds: 'Most of my male colleagues are married.'

She has long been used to being the only woman. 'I was the only female trainee, the only female general surgeon, I am often the only female at meetings. Surgeons have generally been men, that has been the role model up until now. But, as more women become surgeons, we will be able to show that you don't need to be a sixfoot tall, rugby playing Porsche driver to become an orthopaedic surgeon.'

She does not think there will ever be a 50:50 ratio of female to male surgeons.

'But I think women could make up a third of the profession, ' she says. 'Current medical students won't become consultants for another 10-12 years. When I was a medical student we did not have the 50:50 ratio of female to male medical students that you have now. These girls have got to go somewhere - why not into surgery?'

Many would-be surgeons drop out around the age of 27 or 28 at senior house officer level, but those deciding not to go further with specialist surgical training include men as well as women, she points out.

'Surgeons of either sex need to be very hardworking, very determined, competent, practical and able to cope with being up late, ' says Ms Reid. 'Female surgeons probably have to be even more determined.'