I have spread my dreams under your feet

August 18 2014

I have a friend named Michael Short. I only see Michael once a month or so (through our work with the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre) and, when I do, he always gives me a gift: a definition for a new word, a connection to someone wonderful, an affirmation of the way I parent my teens. An introduction to ListServe was one of his gifts, and I'm grateful for the chance to share a little of my life with you.

I'm a doctor, lawyer, and company director, living my life between Australia and New Zealand, with my husband and three children. I recently turned 40, and love the courage and integrity that I see in phenomenal women all around me.

As I write this, I'm sitting at beautiful Queenstown airport after giving the opening keynote for the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. I shared the stage with an extraordinary young woman named Jen Morris who told her story of having her trust violated during medical "care". I wish more doctors had the chance to hear the untold stories of harm that can be caused by treatment that was intended to heal. Next month, I'm off to London to speak with medical regulators from around the world about high-risk health practitioners. Does it surprise you to learn that in Australia fewer than 5% of doctors account for nearly 50% of patient complaints?

Earlier this week, I sat around the board table of Summerset retirement villages in Wellington. (Did you know that the percentage of women on corporate boards is still less than 20 percent?) At the dawn of the 20th century, children outnumbered the elderly by 8 to 1. Soon, there will be more over 65s than children. I'm not yet sure what this means for us as a society, but I welcome the chance to help shape that future with Summerset and the University of Melbourne's new Master of Ageing.

I also care deeply about the health and wellbeing of young people. Next week, I'll be with Family Planning - supporting their work towards sexual health and reproductive rights around the world. Already, I see the difference we are making by improving access to long acting reversible contraceptives, supporting the rights of sex workers to a safe work environment, and enabling teachers with a sexuality education resource called Safe Landing.

Between my travels, my dear friend Sarah (who walks with me at dawn), and my beloved book club (who introduce me to treasures like Hannah Kent's "Burial Rites"), keep me safe and grounded. When I travel, I'm often joined by one of my children or my inspirational 72 year old mum, who prides herself on learning something new every day.

Finally, in celebration of the people who light up my life with joy and laughter, I give you the gift of my favourite cake from Moosewood restaurant. It's rich, dark and delicious; has no nuts, eggs, or dairy; and is easy enough for little helping hands.

Six-minute chocolate cake

1 1/2 cups plain white flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup cold water (or cold brewed coffee)
2 Tablespoons vinegar

Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add the first three wet ingredients and combine. Then add the vinegar and mix quickly. Pale swirls will appear as the baking soda and vinegar interact.

Pour into a 9 inch cake pan and bake at 375 degrees (190 C) for 25 to 30 minutes.

If desired, ice with a simple glaze of melted chocolate mixed with hot water or milk.

Celebrate life with your loved ones and share your joy with others.

Dr Marie Bismark
[email protected]

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