New Book from the Massachusetts Medical Society Recounts Personal Stories of 22 Women Physicians

WALTHAM — When You Don’t Fit the Mold…Make a New One is the title of new book from the Massachusetts Medical Society (MMS) that contains the personal stories of 22 women physicians — the decisions they made, the roads they traveled, and the obstacles they faced on their way to and through medical school and on to a professional career as a medical doctor.

Published on the 25th anniversary of the Society’s Committee on Women in Medicine, the book offers a revealing look at the experiences of women whose medical schooling and practice eras span more than six decades. Formed in 1981, the committee serves as an advocate for women physicians and provides a forum for networking, mentoring, and leadership development.

 “Not one of us did exactly what our families or society expected of us,” said Mary Kraft, M.D. in her introduction to the book. “Each woman created a unique mold for herself. Perhaps the only common threads are the passion and dedication we bring to medicine and patient care.” Dr. Kraft, chairperson of the Committee on Women in Medicine from 1997-2001, in part provided the initiative for a conference on women in medicine that eventually led to the book.

 Edith Jolin, M.D., a psychiatrist and current chairperson of the Committee on Women in Medicine, says women have made great strides in medicine in recent years.  “We’ve progressed from the days when medical school classes had but a handful of women to today, when half or more of the entering students are women.”

But she adds that physicians face the same pressures as other professionals in demanding careers. “Every working family is trying to figure out how to achieve balance and a productive, healthy life.”

Claudia Koppelman, M.D., a Holyoke physician who co-chaired the committee when the book initiative began, wrote in the preface, “The experiences of these women, the decisions they made, and the opportunities they chose to follow can be attributed to their individual strength of character. The knowledge that conformity is unnecessary in the quest to become a skilled physician was the key that allowed these women to pursue their dreams.”

The chapter titles in When You Don’t Fit the Mold…Make a New One are indicative of the varied experiences of the women themselves. A sampling: ‘M.D. — Mother Died or Marvelously Diversified’; ‘Pregnancy During Fellowship’; ‘Achieving Balance’; ‘Doing it My Way, On My Time’; ‘The Uneven Road’; or simply, ‘My Story.’ Three of the women featured in the book have been elected president of the MMS, the statewide organization of physicians that today has some 18,500 members.

Kraft, an anesthesiologist at Mass-achusetts General Hospital, says the purpose behind the book of personal stories is to “serve as inspiration and encouragement for future generations of women in medicine to pursue their dreams and each make their own unique stamp on the world.”

The book was first presented May 11 at the 25th Anniversary Celebration of the Committee on Women in Medicine, held as part of the medical society’s 2006 annual meeting. The medical society also plans to put the book’s contents on its Web site for wider distribution. For more information on the book, contact the MMS Member Information Center at (781) 434-7311, or email info@massmed.org