Thursday, September 20, 2007

Gathering the stories

As some of you already know, we're gearing up for the arrival of the National Library of Medicine traveling exhibit, Changing the Face of Medicine: Celebrating America's Women Physicians, in June 2008. We've started to poke around, in the way of those beginning research, working on a little kernel of resources here, wading through a big pile of names over there, and generally getting the lay of the land--both archival and bibliographic--in our own backyard.

And so it was that I found myself paging through the book This Side of Doctoring: reflections from women in medicine, edited by Eliza Lo Chin. It's an absolutely enthralling collection of short pieces (essays, poems, anecdotes, excerpts from longer works) by and about women physicians. My original intention was just to skim through the anthology and identify Oregon physicians, but I found myself stopping every few pages, captivated by the stories. From Jennifer Best's poem "Freckles" ("I noticed the freckles on your shoulders this afternoon, // as a black plastic bag was pulled from your arm") to the short anecdote by "Dr. W." (in which his 7-year-old daughter tells a guest, "In our house, daddy makes the bread and butter and mommy makes the jelly"), the pieces reflect the joys and hardships, the rewards and disappointments faced by women physicians every day.

I did find two Oregon representatives, by the by: Bethenia Owens-Adair's autobiography, Dr. Owens-Adair: some of her life experiences is excerpted on page 14, and Dr. Linda Ganzini's essay, "An independent scientist," is included in the section on "Balancing" (p. 286). Whether you're interested in women in medicine or a woman physician yourself--in fact whether you're interested in women at all or even in really good prose and poetry, you'll find something to delight you in this collection.

The OHSU Library has just received and cataloged another good resource for those interested in the history of women in medicine: Steven J. Peitzman's A new and untried course: Woman's Medical College and Medical College of Pennsylvania, 1850-1998 is now available for checkout from the Main Library. The cover of the paperback must have been designed by someone after my own heart: there's a great picture of women students dissecting a cadaver, dated 1891. We love those old anatomy lab shots!

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