Prim. Dr. Marija MASTEN – the first Slovenian female surgeon who contributed to the development of surgery in Novo mesto

Marina Masten was born in Kranj, where she spent her youth. She studied medicine in Ljubljana and Innsbruck, where she obtained a PhD in 1936. She was employed at the Ljubljana hospital, where she became fond of surgery. In 1942, she passed the surgeon exam and thus became the first Slovenian female surgeon. Until 1950, she worked in Ljubljana; afterwards she was employed at the surgeon department in Novo mesto.

She occasionally came to Novo mesto hospital to help in 1950, and a year later, she moved there permanently and was employed there. She and Prof. Dr. Bajc have been the only surgeons at the Novo mesto hospital surgery department for eight years. Besides the large scope of work and huge responsibilities, both surgeons also took care of the department development and staff education. The first generations of nurses from the Dolenjska region were taught anatomy by Marina Masten. In 1960, she was appointed head of the newly established rehabilitation department.

In 1969, she became senior doctor. At this occasion, the newspaper Dolenjski list wrote: “Dr. Marina Masten, the first Slovenian female surgeon, became a senior doctor a few days ago. Her life path was thus crowned with an important act. She has received an acknowledgement for her expert work and selfless help to others, which she, being a modest doctor, wanted to keep secret. /…/ Prim. Dr. Masten, always modest and quiet, hardly agreed to be interviewed. She told us she does not like publicity and that she likes her life, which follows a settled path to one exact goal - to be successful in her expert work and to help people. We congratulate the first Slovenian female surgeon - a senior doctor!« (Dolenjski list, 20 3 1969).

Dr. Masten was a dedicated and self-sacrificing expert; she sacrificed a part of her private life for general progress. As Dolenjski list reported after her death in July 1981, she was “an important part of the doctor’s team with only a few members, which successfully organised their responsible work of taking care of the Dolenjska region people’s health in difficult circumstances after the war.” She has worked at the surgery department for 25 years; until a severe illness forced her to retire. However, she has led the rehabilitation department for five further years. She died on 1 June 1981 in Ljubljana and is buried in Kranj.

Due to her devotion to work and her patients, she was very much respected among the people. The article on her death in Dolenjski list was concluded as follows: “Her merits for the healthcare and surgery progress at the Novo mesto hospital cannot be described with only a few words. This can be confirmed by her co-workers and students; her care for recovery of health or preservation of life was felt by many patients. Her life will remain a pleasant memory among all of us.”

 

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