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Forged by the Knife

176 pages
5 ½" by 8 ½"

Cloth - $24.00
ISBN 0-940880-63-6
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Paper - $15.00
ISBN 0-940880-64-4
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Forged by the Knife

The Experience of Surgical Residency from the Perspective of a Woman of Color

by Patricia L. Dawson, M.D., Ph.D., FACS

Forged by the Knife arrives at a time when many of the tenets of traditional medical/surgical residency training are being called into question. The author draws on her own residency experiences and from interviews with six other Black women surgeons to describe the obstacles they faced in a social system designed as an endurance test or boot camp for White men. Their stories at the heart of this remarkable book shed light on the experiences of a pathbreaking group of women. Medical school administrators, educators, and those seeking to understand why empathy does or does not develop in physicians will find this a valuable book. It also speaks to those seeking to understand institutionalized racism and sexism.

Patricia L. Dawson, M.D., Ph.D., FACS, a breast surgeon in private practice in Seattle, Washington, earned her medical degree from New Jersey Medical School in Newark. She completed two years of general surgical residency training at the University of Medicine and Dentistry in Newark and three years at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle. She practiced general surgery for one year in private practice and for fourteen years at Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Seattle; she then returned to private practice. It was during her tenure as director of medical staff diversity for Group Health Cooperative that Dr. Dawson began her first investigations into the negative aspects of surgial residency training as experienced by Black female surgeons. Pursuing this topic further, she earned a Ph.D. in Human and Organizational Systems from the Fielding Institute in Santa Barbara, California, and published her research and conclusions in this book. Dr. Dawson lives in Seattle and is the mother of a high-school-aged son and college-aged-daughter.


This is an insightful look into the making of black female surgeons and the long, rigorous hours of surgical residency. The reader can feel the pain, isolation, and loneliness of being excluded--while still having to bear the responsibility of making life-and-death decisions with someone watching over your shoulder.
M. Joycelyn Elders, M.D., former Surgeon General of the United States

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