Curtin University researcher’s sharp mind applied to medical issue

Psychologist and medical science researcher Gemma Sharp. Picture: Jon Hewson d470427
Psychologist and medical science researcher Gemma Sharp. Picture: Jon Hewson d470427

A CURTIN researcher investigating an increase in genital surgery has been named as one of the nation’s brightest minds.

Following a national search, the University of NSW and ABC Radio National (RN) announced the Top 5 Under 40 – the next generation of Australian science minds under the age of 40 who will embark on a two-week residency at RN.

Award recipient Gemma Sharp, a psychologist and medical science researcher, is studying why so many Australians are opting for genital altering cosmetic surgery.

Her research is centred on why this procedure is so popular when compared with other more visible cosmetic surgeries such as nose jobs and breast enhancements.

Dr Sharp said when she started studying this topic in 2013, cosmetic genital surgery was the fastest growing surgical procedure.

She said between 2000 and 2014, records indicated there was a three-fold increase in the number of women having cosmetic genital surgery.

“What I found was the way women’s genitals are portrayed in the media was a strong influence on a woman’s decision to have surgery,” she said.

Dr Sharp said two groups of women were electing to have the procedure – those in their late teens to 20s and women aged in their late-30s to mid-50s.

“I have looked at why women are getting the surgery and the psychological outcomes,” she said.

Dr Sharp has held studies with women who have undergone the surgery and said it was sometimes difficult to find women willing to discuss their experiences.

She said while women were generally pleased with how the bodies looked following the surgery, there was not much change in the broader psychological impacts such as self-esteem and satisfaction in relationships.

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