This Side of Doctoring: Reflections from Women in Medicine

Paperback (Print)
Buy New
Buy New from
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $1.99
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 91%)
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (32) from $1.99   
  • New (9) from $10.66   
  • Used (23) from $1.99   


Every day women physicians face daunting challenges of the medical profession. But these women are also daughters, mothers, wives, homemakers, and community leaders. With all the demands connected to each role, how do women doctors cope? Many of them write. This Side of Doctoring presents an intimate collection of stories, poems, essays, and quotations that captures the joy and heartbreak of being a woman and being a physician. Eliza Lo Chin (MD, Harvard Medical School) has gathered more than 100 voices that speak to the trials, rewards, and surprises of practicing medicine. From the writings of early medical pioneers to modern-day medical students, this book weaves together a rich patchwork of experiences.

Raw and honest, This Side of Doctoring awakens us to worlds we could otherwise only imagine. Throughout these pages are the expressions of courage, doubt, fatigue, perseverance, frustration, and triumph that fill the lives of women physicians. These are the stories of choosing a life in medicine and the many different paths women follow in living that life.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Any woman contemplating a career as a physician or already working in the profession will gain a good deal of insight from this collection of personal essays and poems by female physicians over the last century and a half. Organized into categories such as "Internship and Residency," "Mothering and Doctoring," and "Barriers," the anthology presents feminine and feminist perspectives on all aspects of a medical career. Most of the pieces are contemporary and previously unpublished, solicited by Chin, an internist and former Columbia University medical professor. In her essay "We're Not in Kansas Anymore: Men as Medical Mentors," pediatrician and author (Her Own Medicine) Sayantani DasGupta describes how her search for a "female" professional mentor turned up a vital male role model instead. Psychiatrist Bhuvana Chandra's evocative poem recalls how much it meant to her father that she became a doctor. Several pieces deal with reconciling the commitment to patients with the commitment to family life, such as Molly Carnes's down-to-earth "Balancing Family and Career: Advice from the Trenches." Chin also provides a historical overview of the barriers that faced 19th-century women physicians like Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to graduate from an American medical school, and Harriet Hunt, whose recollections are among the archival pieces featured in the anthology. This is an engaging and frequently inspiring collection. (Feb.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Doody's Review Service
Reviewer: Patricia Wong, MD (Stanford University Medical Center)
Description: This book is a communal sharing of the sentiments and thoughts from female physicians on their medical training and experiences, and how their careers have impacted their lives as mothers, spouses, physicians, and human beings. There are letters, poems, and personal vignettes on why we, as female physicians, celebrate and dedicate ourselves to a very demanding, stressful, and rewarding life choice.
Purpose: Through the sharing of this collective knowledge, the book will encourage, strengthen, support, and provide insight into why we have chosen this life, and continue to believe in what we have chosen, even at those times when it seems like things are not going to work out.
Audience: The audience is female medical students, residents, and physicians.
Features: The fear of losing control of one's life, the fear of making the wrong diagnosis, the sorrow over the death of a patient despite doing one's best, the elation one experiences when one has touched someone and made a difference in how that person copes with an illness, the guilt one feels when one has no energy left for family or spouse, and the acceptance of understanding that one cannot be superwoman are all poignantly represented in the writings.
Assessment: I am unaware of similar books written on the subject. Women physicians may find this book inspirational and enlightening personally.
Academic Library Book Review
Like a patchwork quilt, this richly-textured compilation represents each woman’s extraordinary life and career while their common experiences clearly emerge, cutting across different specialties, ages, and geographic divides.

3 Stars from Doody
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195158472
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 5/15/2003
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 792,047
  • Product dimensions: 7.90 (w) x 5.20 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Eliza Lo Chin is a general internist with an interest in women’s health. She received an M.D. from Harvard Medical School, an M.P.H. from Columbia University, and completed her residency in internal medicine at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Until recently, she was an Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons where she was actively involved in both the clinical and teaching programs.

In August 2000, Dr. Chin took a brief reprieve from clinical medicine to move to California where her husband Doug completed a fellowship in hand surgery. She has devoted this year to her three children and the completion of this anthology. She currently resides in northern California with her husband and three children and anticipates returning to her medical career in a part-time capacity.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

1 Historical Perspective 1
2 Early Pioneers 11
Glances and Glimpses 11
Letters from Elizabeth Blackwell 12
In the Words of Mary Putnam Jacobi 13
The Fortress 14
Some of My Life Experiences 14
From More Than Gold in California 16
From Mine Eyes Have Seen 17
Petticoat Surgeon 17
From A Child Went Forth 18
Fighting for Life 20
From Bowery to Bellevue 21
A Woven Fabric 23
Woman at the Gate 25
A Woman Doctor Looks at Love and Life 26
The Antique Roadshow of a 90-Year-Old 27
Sound Investments 29
The First Women at H.M.S. 29
I Will Not Pass Away 33
The Beginnings of Women's Health Advocacy 34
From Chivalry and Off-Color Jokes to Acceptance and Respect 32
Medicine and Motherhood 36
Medical Internship 40
3 The Formative Years 45
A Youthful Encounter 45
From Kitchen Table Wisdom 48
Anatomy Lesson 51
Cold Hands 54
Here Is What I Learned 56
Jane 56
Circumstance 62
From the Deccan Plateau 63
Song of the Dying Ova 64
How I'll Become a Good Physician 67
A Gift 68
Thirtysomething Meets ER 70
Freckles 72
Summers With My Aunt 74
The Discovery Clinic 76
4 Life in the Trenches: Internship and Residency 79
Unknown Alpha 79
Birthday 83
How I Survived Residency 85
Necessary Journeys 86
Post-Call 89
We're Not in Kansas Anymore: Men as Medical Mentors 90
Whine List 94
The Only Night I Cried 96
A Long Road 97
A Time for Change: Innovative Pathways for Residency Training 100
Lamentation of the Female Academician 102
But I Do Care 106
5 On Doctoring 109
In Between Before and After 109
Heartsick 112
My Patient, the Doctor, and Me 115
Heart Doctor 118
Common Ground 119
Dawn 126
Life Force 127
A Doctor Alone With Her Decision 128
Through the Eyes of a Physician 130
Why You Came to Me 132
Generations 134
Finding Beauty in Annie 142
A Visit to the Doctor 144
Job Description 147
6 Mothering and Doctoring 151
Mutual Benefits 151
Doctor's Daughter 152
Conversation Hearts 157
Monday Morning 158
"Mommydoc" 159
A Mother's Prayer 164
On Being a Medical Mom 170
Tsunami Baby 171
A Patient's Wife 174
The Transition Game 175
Interview for Clinician-Educator Position 176
Spiderlings 177
Teeter-Totter 180
Breast-Feeding: Straddling the Fence Between Work and Home 181
A Reminiscence 183
The Second Road 184
Patients as Patron Saints 185
Mother's Day 188
"To Love and to Work" 189
Balance 189
Numbing Down 192
Maternity and Medicine 196
Parenting Without Pregnancy 196
Body Snatcher 198
Redefining Motherhood 200
Taking Children Seriously 202
7 Making Choices 205
Finding the Balance Point Between Overdrive and the Mommy Track 205
Between Lawn Cuts 207
Not Having Children 210
Missed Opportunities 214
Taking Stock 214
Life Choices 215
Composing a Life in Medicine 215
On Packing for the Information Superhighway 217
Thoughts on Time Management 219
8 Barriers 221
Glass Ceiling 222
Why Don't You Quit? 223
Woman in Orthopedic Surgery Stories 223
Life in the Boys' Club 226
Professionalism 229
The Feminization of American Medicine 230
An Interview Tale 230
Not Easy to Please 231
On Reaching Visible 232
Triple Jeopardy 232
A Minority Perspective 234
My Path Through Medical School 236
The Life of Women in Medicine 237
Leave 238
Emotional Conflicts of the Career Woman 239
Kath's Graduation 242
An American Experience 242
A Warm Gesture 243
A Lesbian Voice: What Does It Mean to Be a "Dyke Doctor"? 246
9 Connections 251
The Doctor in the Family 251
Tobacco, Tulips, and Terminal Care 255
The Friendship of Women 260
A Doctor in the Family 262
The Two-Casserole Test 264
The Cafeteria 267
Memories of Our Mother 268
10 Balancing 271
August 1994: Letter to My Student 272
Balancing, Juggling, and Other Feats 273
Juggling the Personal and Professional Life 274
Workday Mornings - Three Weeks 274
Where Is the Self? 275
The Multitude of Little Things 275
Is It Worth It? 276
Can It Be Done? 276
A Few Thoughts on Part-time Faculty: The Push for the Summit and the Long Climb Down 281
Centered in the Deep Connections 283
An Independent Scientist 286
How to Do It All at Once 290
Late Lunch 292
Balancing Family and Career: Advice From the Trenches 294
One Page at a Time 297
To Rachel 299
Pregnancy and the Professional Woman 299
The Changing Role of Physicians as Working Mothers 300
Reflections on Balance 303
Notes From a Personal Journey 304
11 Our Families' Perspectives 307
Jelly 307
From Balm in Gilead: Journey of a Healer 308
Our Medical Marriage 309
From Her Infinite Variety 310
What's a Mother For? 312
Life With Mother, the M.D. 314
What We Have Fashioned Together 315
I Remember as a Child 316
Renuka Gera 317
12 Reflections 319
The Feminization of Medicine 319
Double Helix 320
Identity Crisis 321
A Personal Journey 321
My Experience as a Woman in Medicine 323
Scopes, Hopes and Learning the Ropes 326
Defining Ourselves 329
Looking Good 329
What It's Been Like 330
Reminiscences of My Medical Career 330
Enjoying the Moment 333
Navigating the Maze of Academic Medicine 335
From Teacher to Psychiatrist With Family 336
Generation to Generation: Mother-Daughter Physicians 337
Afterword 343
Glossary 345
Resources for Women in Medicine 355
About the Editor 357
About the Contributors 359
Read More Show Less


Foreword by Janet Bickel, Associate Vice President, Institutional Planning and Development, Director of Women's Programs, Association of American Medical Colleges, Author of Women in Medicine: Getting in, Growing, and Advancing (2000)

I've never been so glad to be proven wrong. When the idea of this anthology was first proposed, I was skeptical and hoped that Eliza wouldn't be too disappointed when so few women responded to her call. That so many physicians put their emotional and creative and feminine sides on hold during training, and never recover them, also seemed likely to doom this project. But behold the assembled voices of more than 140 women physicians, each authentic and strong. While this compendium cannot span equally well the universe of women physicians and underrepresents some, most women will discover in this book connections to a welcome network of like experiences.

Male readers will find this compendium valuable in quite another way. A brief anecdote illustrates why. I'm among the thousands who are grateful for the mentoring of Dr. Carola Eisenberg. Carola was the first woman in a decanal position at MIT prior to becoming the first woman dean of student affairs at Harvard Medical School. During the 1970s, women residents as well as students discovered in Carola a much needed beacon of sanity and support as, despite dramatic increases in the numbers of women trainees, the "gender climate" remained decidedly chilly. She began opening her home on occasional evenings to the residents so they could share with each other their stresses and coping mechanisms. Her fine husband, Dr. Leon Eisenberg (then chair of Harvard's Department of Social Medicine) told me that he did not understand why these very bright and obviously highly competent women needed extra help. But one evening while making himself a cup of tea in the kitchen, he overheard the voices coming from the living room. He remained transfixed for the next hour or so while lightbulbs flashed on. He had flattered himself to be a champion of equal rights for women but had simply failed to see what went on right in front of his eyes in the mostly male faculty groups he was part of every day. Thus, the ancient power of stories to draw in, to educate.

In Writing a Woman's Life, Carolyn Heilbrun (1988) urges women to write their stories because "power consists to a large extent in deciding what stories will be told." Women professionals looking for their foremothers' stories find comparatively few published ones. And as Heilbrun notes, the women's stories that have been published "are painful, the price [has been] high, the anxiety is intense, because there is no script to follow . . . let alone any alternative stories." Actually, women seeking to combine family, love, and work still lack anything resembling a script; no journey myth works either (Odysseus?). Each woman is still devising her own path on a far from level playing field, dodging unexpected paradoxes-for example, treating other people's children in the hospital while hers are sick at home or professional isolation whereas the experience for men is highly social and socializing.

Most of this book's entries pose questions that converge around three main themes interweaving across the chapters: Who am I in relation to my family? Who am I in relation to my patients? What about my own plans and ambitions? With regard to the latter, as More (2000) noted in her study of women physicians, the effects of "choice" and "necessity" remain more tangled in women's than in men's careers. As McClelland (1967) observes, "A woman's success is less easily visible [than a man's who is following a single course] . . . because it consists of the sum of all these [part-time] activities." But as Williams (2000) shows in Unbending Gender, "women do not prefer marginalization. . . . What is needed is not a mommy track, but work restructured to reflect the legitimate claims of family life."

To focus first on who a woman physician is vis-à-vis her family, tensions around women's multiple roles begin even before medical school. During their medical school interviews, many contributors were asked questions such as, "Why don't you want to be wife and mother?" At the same time, Linda Clever ironically notes, "Being a physician is one of the few socially acceptable reasons to abandon a family." Catherine Chang speaks for many when she says, "I have so much to say, it is difficult to find the words. . . . the struggle to balance my career and family . . . constantly tears at me." Cynthia Kapphahn confesses, "The sheer determination that helped get me through medical school and residency has proven quite useless in my family life. . . . instead, intuition, patience and a form of 'non-effort' are required." Marcia McCrae advises women to give up idea of balance: "Don't be frozen in the middle. . . . learn to prance, slide, skip, skid, and skitter from one end of the see-saw to the other." Laughter is also recommended; Patricia Temple found herself "at the park when the children had runny noses and wet diapers and all I had in my purse was a stethoscope." Linda Clever offers strategies on keeping family glued together and enjoying each other: "negotiate, accommodate, and recreate." Finally finding statement is the emptiness that can occur when women wait too long "to fit the mystical process of reproduction into the unerringly practical cycle of our professional production" (Sayantani DasGupta).

In Barbara Sommer's words, medicine still demonstrates a "pervasive lack of seriousness toward women who want an academic career while providing a loving environment for their family." Thus, most women physicians are still patching together individual solutions and shoehorning their professional and second-shift responsibilities into structures created by men with full-time support at home. The continuing tyranny of dualistic thinking-for example, either you're fully available during your 20s to 40s to work or you'll never reap academic rewards, either you're tenured or nontenured-remains beyond the scope of this book (McElvaine, 2001). But such systems issues beg to be addressed, given that (a) youth is associated with neither scientific achievement nor clinical acumen, (b) women physicians (at least in primary care) tend to be most productive between age 50 and 60, and (c) we cannot afford to waste medical careers, involving substantial public investment (Etzkowitz, Kemelgor, & Uzzi, 2000).

As McMurray and Jordan (2000) have written, "Medicine is particularly appealing to women because it offers the opportunity to have significant intellectual stimulation embedded in a relational context." For physicians, family and professional roles can enrich each other in unexpected ways. Daphne Miller remarks, "The moments of talking with patients about my conflicts and challenges [regarding family responsibilities] have helped me become a wiser doctor and mother, and they have bolstered the confidence of my patients in their ability to care for themselves and others." But witness the contrasts between the days when physicians had opportunity to talk with patients along such personal lines and today. As Lucy Candib declares, "I have chosen to remain in one setting for the past 15 years. . . . A doctor used to be a person who came and stayed . . . in the community." Not only is this community orientation much less common now, but the increasing corporatization of medicine can put physicians at war with patients, as Julia McMurray here notes, "New patients are enraged at the more than three months' wait for a physical. They feel betrayed by the slick advertisements . . . there just doesn't seem to be enough time for them to begin to trust me . . . I am simply heartsick."

Negative influences on the patient-physician relationship are indeed disturbing. But one of the strengths of the book is that contributors wear their hearts on their sleeves. The poetry here comes from the heart too: "Babies . . . slippery as chance" (Alison Moll); "Your love cut through the layers of my . . . shield" (Kathleen Franco); "the hospice within, buried in fertile soil, germinates and flowers tubular fruit" (Stephanie Nagy-Agren); and "Rare/restive respite, only briefly restful/the press of things undone still live and warm" (Mary Clark). Nassim Assefi discusses how writing complements her medical work: "We trace anatomical landscapes with our hands and battle pathology with the latest technology . . . the professional culture . . . fosters disagreement with the emotional realm . . . [But] with fiction, I get under the skin and am able to express processes at work in human life that cannot be explained in a medical textbook." Even women who don't consider themselves writers are advised, "Keep a journal of your stories. They are the vitamins that will help you grow as a person and in a profession . . . a roadmap of where you have been and where you are going" (Beth Alexander).

This collection is a vibrant and accurate roadmap of the past and present of women physicians. I also read it as Acts 1 and 2 of a drama with tragic, comic, and poetic elements. Act 3 is about to begin.


Etzkowitz, H., Kemelgor, C., & Uzzi, B. (2000). Athena unbound: The advancement of women in science and technology. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Heilbrun, C. (1988). Writing a woman's life. New York: Norton.

McClelland, D.C. (1967). Wanted: A new self-image for women. In R. J. Lifton (Ed.), The woman in America (pp. 187-188). Boston: Beacon.

McElvaine, R. (2001). Eve's seed: Biology, the sexes and the course of history. New York: McGraw-Hill.

McMurray, J. E., & Jordan, J. (2000). Work in progress: Relational dilemmas of women physicians. Wellesley College, MA: Stone Center.

More, S. E. (2000). Restoring the balance: Women physicians and the profession of medicine, 1850-1995. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Williams, J. (2000). Unbending gender: Why family and work conflict and what to do about it. New York: Oxford University Press.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2002

    Must read for all women in medicine

    Every aspiring doctor, medical student and physician should read this book. If you want to hear what life has been (and is) like for women doctors this captures the agony and ecstasy of the profession. It contains funny stories, beautiful poems and tragic tales of women doctors past and present. I will remember many of these stories for years to come... the young medical student introducing her boyfriend to her cadaver, a doctor herself miscarrying while she delivers a patient's baby, and many more. Many of today's leading women physician writers (as well as women doctors working today) have included pieces, that will inspire, inform or surprise you with their honesty and clarity. It's good for busy women as you can read one story or ten! Makes you wonder what the future holds for women in medicine.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)