Tell us about your work.
I have practiced primary care internal medicine at MGH for 30 years. Several years ago I began publishing personal essays in NEJM, The Lancet, The Boston Globe, and elsewhere. My essay collection, Letter to a Young Female Physician, will be published by WW Norton & Co. in 2021. As Writer in Residence at MGH I mentor writers, conduct reading and writing workshops, and host literary events.
What helped get you there?
I received an MFA in nonfiction writing in my 50s, which helped me improve my writing as well as to meet other writers and create a writing life which I was able to incorporate into my medical work. Identifying supportive and imaginative leaders in my hospital who recognized the value of medical humanities to clinician and patients alike was crucial.
Have there been any interests that you have continued to pursue outside of medicine? Have you been able to combine these with your medical career?
At this point my main “extracurricular” activities — reading and writing — are central to my medical work, which is a great joy.
What challenges have you faced in your medical career?
Balancing work and family life have been the greatest challenge. I was lucky to have good support and resources but structural changes to make medicine more family friendly for both women and men are still needed.
What advice do you have for women in medicine?
Question any thought that begins with “I should…” Too often I speak with younger colleagues who are working hard in jobs or on projects that they don’t love. A certain amount of grind is inevitable but we women tend to underestimate our ability to do what we actually want to do.