In this collection of funny, touching, and self-deprecating essays, physician Koven covers extensive ground: being a doctor’s daughter, becoming a doctor and a mom, dealing with family health issues, experiencing sexism in her profession, and coping with the impostor syndrome. It’s easy to root for likable, modest Koven, who, despite all her accomplishments—majoring in English literature at Yale, going to medical school at Johns Hopkins, joining the faculty at Harvard Medical School—worries about things like her weight and her natural chattiness ... a thought-provoking and inspiring memoir, which began as a series of letters to a friend.
This book unfolds in roughly chronological essays, each with a gentle but firmly instructive bent—it comes as less than a surprise when, about 100 pages in, we learn that Dr. Koven flirted with the idea of leaving medicine and becoming a rabbi. Again and again, she tosses a comic’s banana peel ahead of herself, each seeming blunder becoming another victory for self-knowledge, hers and the reader’s...She is rueful and delightful and keeps on building a careening and fascinating life. Through it all, Dr. Koven never quite loses the genteelness of bedside manner ... For doctors like me, a generation younger than Dr. Koven, Letter is a warm and wry epistle, the endless and near-perfect email you wish your mother, your mentor and your therapist would sit down and type out together ... Who would not wish to be a doctor, if it means feeling as attentively alive as this? ... I would have liked for Dr. Koven to unpack her and her husband’s decision that she would practice part-time while he continued full time...And I would have loved for her to exert even more brio dismantling arguments such as Dr. Karen Sibert’s essay asserting that doctors who leave the field or reduce their hours are selfish and must be discouraged. Though the cultural forces that pull one out of the white coat are different than those that push one into it, they both encourage women to exchange the effervescence of a particular life for the dullness of an interchangeable role that makes other things go.
Koven 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 ... The author also touches on her own privilege and discusses the medical racism that her Black colleagues regularly endure ... A candid account that will spark the interest of aspiring physicians.