In Callan’s (Sevoflurane, 2012) memoir, a female physician fights sexism and rises steadily through the ranks of her profession by learning to take a stand and stick with it.
Medicine is one of many professions in which women have made significant strides over the past several decades. In this, her second book, the author relates the story of her own experience in that profession and shows how her decisiveness was a key factor in her career advancement. From her childhood in World War II–era Ireland through her days as a medical resident, Callan shows how episodes in her early life, such as attending parochial school, helped define her future personality. She has had a long and varied career in medicine, state government, the pharmaceutical industry, and professional organizations, including the American Medical Association. Her decisive personality and determination, fortunately, allowed her to avoid sexist marginalization. Callan’s book is written in an easy-to-read style, as she thankfully eschews confusing medical terminology in favor of a conversational manner. Unfortunately, her choice to make the book a laundry list of every minute aspect of her life makes the overall story seem rushed. Nowhere is this truer than in the descriptions of her husband and children; readers learn their names but barely anything about their personalities. Some parts of Callan’s extremely diverse career, such as her battles with entrenched AMA officials to make the organization more responsive to physicians’ needs and less reactive to new ideas, might have benefited from more elaboration than she provides here. Instead, she sticks to a then-this-happened, then-that-happened style that makes the book read like an encyclopedia entry. She has clearly had a long, remarkable career in a difficult environment, but readers—especially women—might have benefited from deeper insight.
A story of a successful woman in the medical field that could have used more reflection.