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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.
|Glances and Glimpses||11|
|Letters from Elizabeth Blackwell||12|
|In the Words of Mary Putnam Jacobi||13|
|Some of My Life Experiences||14|
|From More Than Gold in California||16|
|From Mine Eyes Have Seen||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|
|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|
|3||The Formative Years||45|
|A Youthful Encounter||45|
|From Kitchen Table Wisdom||48|
|Here Is What I Learned||56|
|From the Deccan Plateau||63|
|Song of the Dying Ova||64|
|How I'll Become a Good Physician||67|
|Thirtysomething Meets ER||70|
|Summers With My Aunt||74|
|The Discovery Clinic||76|
|4||Life in the Trenches: Internship and Residency||79|
|How I Survived Residency||85|
|We're Not in Kansas Anymore: Men as Medical Mentors||90|
|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|
|In Between Before and After||109|
|My Patient, the Doctor, and Me||115|
|A Doctor Alone With Her Decision||128|
|Through the Eyes of a Physician||130|
|Why You Came to Me||132|
|Finding Beauty in Annie||142|
|A Visit to the Doctor||144|
|6||Mothering and Doctoring||151|
|A Mother's Prayer||164|
|On Being a Medical Mom||170|
|A Patient's Wife||174|
|The Transition Game||175|
|Interview for Clinician-Educator Position||176|
|Breast-Feeding: Straddling the Fence Between Work and Home||181|
|The Second Road||184|
|Patients as Patron Saints||185|
|"To Love and to Work"||189|
|Maternity and Medicine||196|
|Parenting Without Pregnancy||196|
|Taking Children Seriously||202|
|Finding the Balance Point Between Overdrive and the Mommy Track||205|
|Between Lawn Cuts||207|
|Not Having Children||210|
|Composing a Life in Medicine||215|
|On Packing for the Information Superhighway||217|
|Thoughts on Time Management||219|
|Why Don't You Quit?||223|
|Woman in Orthopedic Surgery Stories||223|
|Life in the Boys' Club||226|
|The Feminization of American Medicine||230|
|An Interview Tale||230|
|Not Easy to Please||231|
|On Reaching Visible||232|
|A Minority Perspective||234|
|My Path Through Medical School||236|
|The Life of Women in Medicine||237|
|Emotional Conflicts of the Career Woman||239|
|An American Experience||242|
|A Warm Gesture||243|
|A Lesbian Voice: What Does It Mean to Be a "Dyke Doctor"?||246|
|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|
|Memories of Our Mother||268|
|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|
|Balancing Family and Career: Advice From the Trenches||294|
|One Page at a Time||297|
|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|
|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|
|The Feminization of Medicine||319|
|A Personal Journey||321|
|My Experience as a Woman in Medicine||323|
|Scopes, Hopes and Learning the Ropes||326|
|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|
|Resources for Women in Medicine||355|
|About the Editor||357|
|About the Contributors||359|
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.
Posted January 22, 2002
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 NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.