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Gone almost 30 years… always in my thoughts

Monday, December 5th, 2011

Maybe it’s the holiday season that just naturally brings back memories of those we love. Or maybe it’s because my father, Donald Thornton, is never far from my mind. But even something as seemingly innocuous as doing some upgrades in our home stirred vivid memories of Daddy, who readers will remember from my memoirs, The Ditchdigger’s Daughters, and Something to Prove.

My husband Shearwood and I were talking to our security firm about improving our home security system. And it brought me back to the day that my father and mother accompanied me to Bard Hall, where I was to room, when I first entered Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City.

I would be living away from home for the first time, and in big, bad New York City, no less. My parents had already helped me settle in and, reluctantly left me in my new room. I assumed they were on their way home. Then Daddy came back to the room, carrying a heavy glass ashtray. After giving me yet another talk about how important it was for a young woman to be careful and vigilant, he handed me the ashtray, which was odd, because I didn’t smoke.

The ashtray was for security purposes, he said. He instructed me to place it above my door, so if any one tried to come in, it would fall and alert me and I could defend myself—or just run.

I thanked him, and promised I’d be careful, but I never did use his makeshift security system. I knew perfectly well that the first time I rushed out the door, I’d be the one to get bonked on the head.

But, just knowing that my Daddy would always look out for me (and yes, I believe he still does, though he’s been gone since 1983), made me feel safer.

And I still have that ashtray.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, MD, MPH

Dr. T’s Midweek Memoir Media Blitz

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

I’m thrilled to tell you that my new memoir, Something to Prove: A Daughter’s Journey to Fulfill a Father’s Legacy, is getting lots of attention from TV, radio, print and online media.

I’ve already taped a couple of shows and will have details for you soon on when and where they will air. But this Wednesday (tomorrow!) is one of my busiest days to date. I’ll be on WNBC TV’s “New York Non-Stop With Chuck Scarborough,” the Tron Thompson Show in Colorado Springs (KCMN), and “AM Ocala Live.”

Hope you’ll tune in. Let me know if there’s something in particular you’d like to know more about when I’m on the air near you.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, MD, MPH

The Book Launch Party Was a Blast!

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Thanks to everyone who came to the party to help celebrate the launch of my new memoir, Something to Prove. It was a roaring success — and it was great to see you there. Here I am, next to the party cake (it was delicious) with images from the book cover on the icing.

Yvonne S. Thornton, MD book launch party

Yvonne S. Thornton, MD at the party for the launch of her memoir, Something to Prove

– Yvonne S. Thornton, MD, MPH

Happy Holidays to All – With a Few Tips to Keep the Season Merry

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

You probably already have a hectic life that just got that much more hectic with the added responsibilities of the holidays. We women often feel pressure to do it all, and to make the holiday special for everyone else. But sometimes, we forget ourselves in the process. So, I thought I’d offer a few tips to plan a holiday that you can enjoy as much as your family and guests.

1. DON’T SHOP UNTIL YOU DROP: I know that budgets are tight for many, many people this year. So, resist the urge to splurge. Even if money isn’t an issue, time is. Don’t try to buy everything at once. Shop in the way that makes the most sense for you, whether that means strolling the mall or surfing the web.

2. LEAVE THE HAUTE CUISINE TO THE FOOD NETWORK GROUPIES: Having company over? Prepare what you can a day or two before, and keep it simple. Forget Mastering the Art of French Cooking this season. Your guests are there to see you, not the Iron Chef champion, so set things up in a way that lets you enjoy the celebration, too.

3: COUNTER THE CALL OF THE BUFFET TABLE: No matter how hard we try to stick to our eating plans, the holidays make it difficult. Fill up your plate with veggies and salad, and leave just a small space for the too-good-to-resist high calorie treats. Balance the inevitable extra calories with an extra walk around the neighborhood after meals. You’ll feel better, and you won’t have to hide the bathroom scale.

4: MAKE YOUR OWN SEASON MERRY AND BRIGHT: Be good to yourself this season. Check the local listings for gatherings that might be fun, or for church choir concerts. Go to a holiday movie. Re-connect on the phone or online with friends and family who have moved away. One of the most rewarding things you can do for yourself is to help those less fortunate. Donate to a food pantry. Visit a senior citizens home. Offer to take a shelter dog for a walk.

I know how tough it is for women to follow this simple advice (hey, I’m a woman, too), but I also know we’ll feel better if we do. So, I’ll try if you will.

Meanwhile, please stop by if you’re in the New York tri-state area for my book launch party at Barnes & Noble in West Nyack this evening for my new memoir, Something To Prove: A Daughter’s Journey to Fulfill A Father’s Legacy. Details are here.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, MD, MPH

Come See Me – and Get a Signed Copy of Something To Prove

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

I’ll be signing copies of my new memoir, Something to Prove: A Daughter’s Journey to Fulfill A Father’s Legacy, in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and beyond, starting in January 2011.

The list of book-signings and other appearances is on my website and will be updated as new events are added. I hope you’ll check often, to see when I’ll be visiting near you. Come say hello, tell me your stories and I’ll share mine. And I’ll be delighted to sign your copy of Something to Prove when we meet.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, MD, MPH

I’m a Cover Girl!

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

I’m delighted to say that Color magazine is running a lengthy profile about me that mentions The Ditchdigger’s Daughters, and gives a taste of my new memoir, Something To Prove, in this month’s issue. The magazine’s cover also features a photograph of me in my surgical scrubs – you just can’t get better coverage than that.

But what I like best is the article, written by Bridgit Brown. Ms. Brown reviewed an advance copy of Something to Prove, and later interviewed me, and I’m happy to report that her story got to the essence of what I am trying to share.

Please check it out – and let me know what you think.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, MD, MPH

Condoleeza Rice and Me

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

It’s interesting that Condoleeza Rice’s memoir,  Extraordinary, Ordinary People, precedes Something To Prove, my own new memoir, by just a couple months (Something To Prove will be out at the end of December). Aside from the color of our skin, I wouldn’t have known that Dr. Rice and I share so much in common. But now that I’ve watched interviews with her and read articles about Extraordinary, Ordinary People, I see that she and I both owe our achievements in large part to parents who, although held back from realizing their own full potential by the racial attitudes of the day, had big dreams for their daughters:

Despite being raised in a city resistant to quality education for blacks, Rice’s parents used their meager resources to provide their only child with piano lessons at 3.

Change a couple of details (I studied a different instrument – the saxophone – and began at age 5), the above could describe my own childhood; multiplied by five daughters and five different instruments.

Condoleeza Rice’s parents had impossible dreams for their daughter of high political office. My parents had impossible dreams for me of becoming a doctor; again multiplied by five daughters .

Rice’s parents told that the way to success required her to be “twice as good” as whites. My parents so often spoke almost the identical words, that I can hear their voices as I write this.

In an interview with NPR, where she was asked about her life’s journey, Rice said this:

“I always say, you had to know John and Angelena Rice …So, this is really their story, and my life wrapped in their story.”

I’ve said very much the same about Donald and Itasker Thornton, my own amazing parents.

One gift that my parents gave me that Dr. Rice did not get from her otherwise remarkable parents is the belief that a woman’s achievement need not come at the sacrifice of marriage and family. I have two wonderful, grown children who are following in their own parents’ footsteps and a husband who I adore today as I did 36 years ago, when we first said “I do.”

– Yvonne S. Thornton, MD, MPH

My New Memoir – “Something To Prove” – Is Now Listed On

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

It will still be several months before SOMETHING TO PROVE: A Daughter’s Journey to Fulfill a Father’s Legacy (Kaplan 2010), is on the bookstore shelves. My publisher plans a launch in late December. But, I’m thrilled to say that already has it listed in the “Books” section.

Writing this new book was a response, in a way, to the thousand or more letters, emails, and phone calls, I’ve gotten from readers – women and men, grade schoolers and grandparents – who wanted me to know how much THE DITCHDIGGER’S DAUGHTERS inspired them. You asked to know what had occurred after that book ended. The answers are in SOMETHING TO PROVE, which, as the Amazon description says, picks up where THE DITCHDIGGER’S DAUGHTERS left off.

Most important, SOMETHING TO PROVE shows that what was true as I was growing up is still true today: despite bias, despite setbacks, with hard work and determination, we can accomplish whatever we set out to do.

I can’t wait for you to read it (although you will have to wait, for a little while longer, at least). And I look forward to reading your letters and emails after you’ve turned the last page.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, MD, MPH

A lovely letter from a reader – and a reminder of why I’ve shared my life story

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

I still hear from readers who were inspired by my first memoir, The Ditchdigger’s Daughters, although it was originally published almost 15 years ago.

The latest to come to me via email really touched me. It’s from Mr. Fred Belknap, whose lovely words make me think that he appreciates the values that my father instilled in his children in almost the same way I do:

    What an example this can be for our children relative to today, in that many think everything should be handed to them and meeting goals and beating the odds is a birth right. It seems your father did a special job to prepare you and your sisters for this world though perhaps his message was questioned at times as a result of his methods. Even though his vision, now a reality through his daughters, speaks to the strength of having a plan and carrying it through.
    Thank you for sharing your experiences and I pray the many messages engraved within them are seen by the upcoming generation.

Thank you Mr. Belknap. Your kinds words have made my day, week and month.

And a big thanks to all those who have read The Ditchdigger’s Daughters and taken its lessons to heart. I hope you’ll all continue the journey with me and read Something to Prove, my next memoir, which picks up where The Ditchdigger’s Daughters left off. It’s scheduled to be published by Kaplan Publishing in Fall 2010.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, MD, MPH

ANNOUNCING: My new memoir, the sequel to The Ditchdigger’s Daughters, to be published by Kaplan Publishing

Monday, October 26th, 2009

This is the news I’ve wanted to share with you for months but I had to wait until the contracts were signed. Now I can shout it to the world.

My new memoir, SOMETHING TO PROVE: Memoirs of a Ditchdigger’s Daughter, by Yvonne S. Thornton, M.D., with Anita Bartholomew, will be published by Kaplan Publishing in Fall 2010.

The book sold at auction, meaning that more than one publisher wanted to publish it. I decided to accept Kaplan’s offer over the others because the team at Kaplan really seemed to get what I was saying and what I was about. And Kaplan has published a number of other memoirs by physicians and medical professionals, so I feel that it’s a good match.

SOMETHING TO PROVE: Memoirs of A Ditchdigger’s Daughter, builds on the foundation of my earlier book and shows that what was true as I was growing up is true today: despite bias, despite setbacks, with hard work and determination, we can accomplish whatever we set out to do.

The book begins with the challenges I encountered when, in the early 1980s, I entered what was still an all white boy’s club of academic medicine. Although I faced bias for both my gender and color, I had a secret weapon: my father’s wisdom. The essence of what he drummed into me as a child was that, as a female, and an African-American, I’d have to work twice as hard as anyone else to be thought to be half as good (a sentiment that later became a mantra for the women’s movement). And I did.

SOMETHING TO PROVE will also document how I handled the personal struggles that every working mother must confront, of juggling a career and family life.

And because I’m a specialist in high-risk pregnancies, SOMETHING TO PROVE will offer plenty of edge-of-your-seat medical drama.

It won’t focus solely on the challenges though. Yes, I’ve dealt with setbacks and pain, but I have also enjoyed great success in my career. I have a supportive, wonderful husband, and two children who are poised to follow their parents into careers in medicine.

And that’s the ultimately uplifting message of SOMETHING TO PROVE, in life lessons passed down from my father to me, and from me to my own children.

It’s been a great journey and I look forward to sharing it with you in SOMETHING TO PROVE.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, MD, MPH