Letter to a Young Female Physician: Notes from a Medical Life (Hardcover)

Letter to a Young Female Physician: Notes from a Medical Life Cover Image

Letter to a Young Female Physician: Notes from a Medical Life (Hardcover)

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A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Best Book of 2021


A poignant and funny exploration of authenticity in work and life by a woman doctor.


In 2017, Dr. Suzanne Koven published an essay describing the challenges faced by female physicians, including her own personal struggle with "imposter syndrome"—a long-held secret belief that she was not smart enough or good enough to be a “real” doctor. Accessed by thousands of readers around the world, Koven’s “Letter to a Young Female Physician” has evolved into a deeply felt reflection on her career in medicine.


Koven tells candid and illuminating stories about her pregnancy during a grueling residency in the AIDS era; the illnesses of her child and aging parents during which her roles as a doctor, mother, and daughter converged, and sometimes collided; the sexism, pay inequity, and harassment that women in medicine encounter; and the twilight of her career during the COVID-19 pandemic. As she traces the arc of her life, Koven finds inspiration in literature and faces the near-universal challenges of burnout, body image, and balancing work with marriage and parenthood.


Shining with warmth, clarity, and wisdom, Letter to a Young Female Physician reveals a woman forging her authentic identity in a modern landscape that is as overwhelming and confusing as it is exhilarating in its possibilities. Koven offers an indelible account, by turns humorous and profound, from a doctor, mother, wife, daughter, teacher, and writer who sheds light on our desire to find meaning, and on a way to be our own imperfect selves in the world.



Suzanne Koven is a primary care physician and the inaugural writer-in-residence at Massachusetts General Hospital. Her writing has appeared in the New England Journal of MedicineBoston Globe, and other publications. A faculty member at Harvard Medical School, she lives near Boston.
Product Details ISBN: 9781324007142
ISBN-10: 1324007141
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: May 4th, 2021
Pages: 320
Language: English
[Koven] is rueful and delightful and keeps on building a careening and fascinating life... [Letter to a Young Female Physician] 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.

— Laura Kolbe - Wall Street Journal

[These] phenomenal essays...are full of acuity and generosity... [Koven's] writing is full of humor, candor, by turns (and often simultaneously) beautiful and heartbreaking shards of narrative, about her own life and the lives of her patients and colleagues. She’s also got a killer sense of humor and a fantastic eye for detail.
— Leslie Jamison - LitHub

Suzanne Koven’s Letter to a Young Female Physician is so wise, beautifully written, tender, and full of heart that it should be required reading for every person—young, female, physician, or otherwise. This is a transporting memoir, and an instructive one.

— Dani Shapiro, author of Inheritance

In Letter to a Young Female Physician, Suzanne Koven charts both the real and the spurious demands that the medical system makes on those who become doctors and care for us all. Her memoir is by turns reassuring and disturbing, comical and tragic, hopeful and dire. Medicine has advanced, but the particular difficulties facing young physicians have grown no less steep, and the impediments women continue to face even as they take a majority place in medical schools are considerable. Koven writes with style and wit and grace—but, more significantly, with insight and compassion.

— Andrew Solomon, author of Far From the Tree

Suzanne Koven has written a remarkable memoir about her life as a doctor that is at once heartwarming, poignant, and breathtaking in its precision; this is a book about the essence of medicine, and will be invaluable to any doctor. But in its compassionate reflections on caring for the human body, it is also a book about life, and what makes a good one. I couldn’t stop reading.
— Meghan O’Rourke, author of The Long Goodbye

Funny, touching, and self-deprecating... [A] thought-provoking and inspiring memoir.
— Booklist

THE SANTA FE LITERARY FESTIVAL

Celebrating the power of story, the inaugural Santa Fe Literary Festival will be an unforgettable weekend dedicated to a shared love and language of ideas. Collected Works Bookstore is thrilled to be the official bookstore of the Festival. 

Bestselling, prizewinning authors and literary legends like Margaret Atwood, Joy Harjo, Colson Whitehead, Sandra Cisneros, John Grisham, amongst others, will headline the festival, discussing their work with readings and book signings that set the stage for further inspired conversations.

NOTE: If you purchase a festival event ticket that is INCLUSIVE of the author's book, you will receive that book upon check-in for your event at the festival.

To order books by festival authors directly from CW, see below. Collected Works will be carrying a wide selection of books by all participating authors available for online pre-order and at the on-site festival bookstore May 20-23.

Purchase your tickets from the SF Literary Festival website here.

Purchase your books by festival authors directly from CW below:

Margaret Atwood     Freddie Bitsoie     Sandra Cisneros

Lynn Cline     William deBuys     Ashley Ford

John Grisham     Roshi Joan Halifax     Joy Harjo

Anne Hillerman     Cheryl Alters Jamison     Craig Johnson

Asma Khan     Phil Klay      Jon Krakauer

Valeria Luiselli     Deborah Madison      Emily St. John Mandel

George R. R. Martin      James McGrath Morris     Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich of Honey & Co. 

Carmella Padilla     Douglas Preston     Kirstin Valdez Quade

Bob Shacochis     Henry Shukman     Hampton Sides

Bryant Terry     Darryl Lorenzo Wellington     Colson Whitehead

Don Winslow     Lawrence Wright