- “This Side of Doctoring” is a stimulating anthology about the journey of women in medicine throughout time. What inspired you to compile and release these stories?
I was a young mother and it was shortly after the birth of my second daughter that the idea for this book began. I remember sitting on the couch while nursing my daughter and reading books on being a working mother. Being a doctor was different from other professions, because work didn’t stop when one left the office. Likewise, being a mother didn’t stop when one stepped out of the house to go to work. So I wondered, how did other women physicians balance being a mother and being a physician? How could women share these experiences with each other? That’s when the idea for the anthology came into being.
- Which of the stories stuck out to you the most, and what did they make you feel?
Doctor’s Daughter was the first piece that I read in the Annals of Internal Medicine which got me working on the book project. I had been contemplating the idea of compiling a book for over a year, but it seemed so unachievable. And then I stumbled on Doctor’s Daughter. For the first time, I realized that I might not be alone in the challenges that I faced balancing work and family. So I mustered up the courage to present the idea of the book to Rita Charon who introduced me to Janet Bickel who introduced me to Sage Publications. And that’s how it all started.
- How have things changed since you wrote the book? How do you feel about the representation of men and women in the medical field now?
Since I wrote the book, more and more women have entered the medical field. Though the percentages of women medical students remains just under 50% still, it is surprising that more than 10 years later, the statistics of women physicians has not yet reached 50%. So there seems to still be a leaky pipeline. We need to better understand the reason for this, so that we can address the needs of women in medical training.
- What further progress do you think that we need? What are good ways to go about making those strides?
There are still barriers that need to be broken. There are still issues of gender disparity, harassment, and discrimination within medicine. Mentors are key as are organizations like the American Medical Women’s Association who can help provide resources so that women can better navigate these waters and advance their careers. I hope that all women in medicine can support each other. As we are better able to navigate the path set by those who have gone before us, so also, we should reach back and help those who follow us.
- What advice would you give to young women who are aspiring physicians in today’s society?
Follow your dream – and your passion. The two most important choices that you will make are the career path that you choose and the partner that will take this journey with you. Choose a specialty because you are passionate about it. Find an area of medicine that you love. Find a partner that will support you on this path.
- Once again, thank you for compiling these stories. I know they have touched many people, myself included, and help us keep our head up as we continue our path to becoming a physician. Is there anything else you would like to add?
It’s been over 10 years since the book was published, and as look back, I am amazed at how fascinating this journey has been. There have certainly been some unexpected detours along the way. And my career trajectory has gone in many directions, from academic faculty to stay at home mom, published author, private practitioner, utilization review physician, volunteer leader, and now executive director of AMWA and medical director of St. Paul’s Towers. I never dreamed in a million years that I would be where I am today. At each step of the way, I found opportunities that I was passionate about and worked hard. So I encourage students to be open to new opportunities. Sometimes they might not be the most glamorous – but if you give it your best and be patient, other opportunities will eventually come.