Letter to a Young Female Physician: Notes from a Medical Life

Norton. May 2021. 320p. ISBN 9781324007142. $26.95. MED
Following in the path of Richard Selzer’s Letters to a Young Doctor and Perri Klass’s Treatment Kind and Fair: Letters to a Young Doctor, Koven, a primary care physician (and daughter of another physician) who teaches at Harvard Medical School and is a writer-in-residence at the Massachusetts General Hospital, directs her book’s thoughtful and honest essays to women entering medicine and flags some of the challenges they may face in a demanding field. Drawing inspiration from Selzer, as well as from her father’s medical career, Koven recounts what drew her to medicine and the obstacles she faced along the way, including enduring misogyny at the hands of fellow students. Her debut covers imposter syndrome (doctors’ doubting their own intelligence or ability), discrimination, harassment, pay inequity, and work-life balance (working while pregnant, or while caring for elderly parents). Young doctors-to-be face many challenges; some are gender-specific, but Koven’s most important advice (which patients and their loved ones might also appreciate) is gender-neutral: “My dear young colleague, you are not a fraud.” The author also touches on her own privilege and discusses the medical racism that her Black colleagues regularly endure.
VERDICT A candid account that will spark the interest of aspiring physicians.
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