Meet the breast reconstruction surgeon changing women’s lives

30 July 2018

WORDS BY Fashion Quarterly New Zealand

Operating on women with breast cancer, Dr Katherine Gale ensures her work helps her patients both look and feel good, and she’s called on some fashionable friends to help this happen.

Fashion and surgery may not seem like the most natural of pairings, but for Dr Katherine Gale her twin passions have proven equally creative. While she loved science and academia throughout school and university, she always enjoyed the creativity of sewing. “I really liked the construction of pattern-drafting, where I would work out the physics and maths of putting in a pleat or extending a skirt,” she says.

Having an eye for detail comes naturally to the talented surgeon, who is part of a team pioneering oncoplastic breast surgery in New Zealand. After training as a general surgeon through the Australasian College of Surgeons, Dr Gale took up fellowships in surgical oncology in Auckland and has trained in oncoplastic breast surgery at the Nottingham Breast Institute in the UK.

The stylish surgeon wears her own Valentino dress and shoes. In the image above, she wears a Dior Jumpsuit and Tom Ford shoes.

Getting the best aesthetic outcome while performing cancer surgery doesn’t require a lot more time or money, says Dr Gale. “It’s a fairly new approach here. The forefathers of oncoplastic breast surgery – such as Douglas Macmillan and Stephen McCulley (my bosses when I was at the Nottingham Breast Institute), Professor Andrew Baildam, Dick Rainsbury and, of course, Krishna Clough – started using plastic surgical techniques with breast cancer surgery 15-20 years ago.”


In 2016, Dr Gale organised a seminar that brought renowned oncoplastic and reconstructive surgeons to our shores to train 130 surgeons from Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Patients and their families were also invited to attend for a day to learn more about controversial topics and treatments. As the cherry on top, Dr Gale convinced Gucci to donate a pink handbag, which was auctioned off and won by a breast cancer survivor.

While she hasn’t had much time to fundraise or sew lately, she knows fashion will always be part of who she is.

Words: Tamsin Marshall.
Photos: Carolyn Haslett.


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