Yvonne S. Thornton

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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

When You Can’t Buy Health Insurance, at Any Price

Monday, February 21st, 2011

As you might already know, I’m a staunch advocate for access to health care, and cheered when health care reform became the law last year. We need the opportunity to stay well and keep our families well, and we need to be able to afford medical care when things go wrong. As a mother and a physician, I’ve seen firsthand how imperative this is.

There are those who say we should repeal the recent landmark health care reforms that Congress passed last year. But that would mean that some people would be shut out of health care completely. Some seem to believe it’s just those who are too poor to afford health insurance, or who can afford it but choose not to buy it, who go without. Those are faulty assumptions, as this op ed by the co-founder of Palm Computer, who was denied insurance before the new law passed, shows:

It never occurred to me that we would be denied! Yes, we had listed a bunch of minor ailments, but nothing serious. No cancer, no chronic diseases like asthma or diabetes, no hospital stays.

Why were we denied? What were these pre-existing conditions that put us into high-risk categories? For me, it was a corn on my toe for which my podiatrist had recommended an in-office procedure. My daughter was denied because she takes regular medication for a common teenage issue. My husband was denied because his ophthalmologist had identified a slow-growing cataract. Basically, if there is any possible procedure in your future, insurers will deny you.

If a woman with $millions couldn’t get approved because of a corn on her toe, what would happen to the average woman, or a child, with a more serious issue if health care reform were repealed?

We need to keep ourselves informed about what’s really at stake. And, trust me, there’s a great deal at stake. If health care reform is repealed, we go back to the days when life-saving care is denied to people who can’t pay the costs—oftentimes, hundreds of thousands of dollars—out-of-pocket. We go back to seeing our kids kicked off our policies when they’re just out of high school and don’t yet have jobs that offer health insurance. We go back to denials for pre-existing conditions as tiny—and ludicrous—as a corn on the toe. Or acne. Or depression. Nevermind more serious illnesses.

We can’t go back. Look at how far we’ve come. Please, be as informed as possible about your new rights under health care reform. You can find most of the information you need at this website set up by the government to guide you through your options and your rights.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, MD, MPH

Book Signings, Media Appearances, and Reviews, Oh My!

Monday, January 24th, 2011

Something To Prove: A Daughter’s Journey to Fulfill a Father’s Legacy has been getting tons of attention lately. I’m exhausted from running here and there for signings, speeches. and appearances, but happy to do it, if it means more people get to hear the story.

As you can see here, I’ve been signing books like crazy, and more events are coming up.

One of my favorite reviews to date appeared in Library Journal. Read it here.

And one of my favorite articles appeared in Paramus Patch, after a book-signing at the local Barnes & Noble. You can find it here, but I thought I’d quote from it, just to give you a taste:

Warm and funny, Thornton captivated the audience of more than 50, many of whom were patients and colleagues.  Married for more than 35 years to an orthopedic surgeon, Thornton had a confession.

“When I became a doctor, I thought I caught the brass ring, that there was nothing left to prove, but I was wrong,” she said. “Even when I got there, I found there was another mountain to climb.”

In that large, enthusiastic audience, I not only re-connected with old friends, but made several new ones and saw (with my own eyes) a young woman of 27 years, Sara, who I delivered in 1983.  Her mother accompanied her and recounted all the drama surrounding her daughter’s birth.  Ah, I remember it well!  Where has all the time gone?  I’m so grateful to all those who have embraced Something To Prove, and can’t wait to meet more of you in person.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, MD, MPH

Time to Deliver? Mother Nature Knows Best

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

For years, I’ve been sounding the alarm about Cesarean delivery on-demand, and have persuaded my patients that childbirth isn’t something you can simply pencil into your schedule when convenient. It’s not just that a baby needs all the time nature gives her within the womb to develop, and that delivering just a few days early can mean that lung development and other functions may be potentially compromised. Cesareans are major surgery, which brings inherent danger to both mom and newborn. Necessary Cesareans are often life-savers. Unnecessary Cesareans can be just the opposite.

And now, at last, the word is spreading.

The San Jose Mercury News reports:

Babies born early through induction or C-section without a medical reason are nearly twice as likely to spend time in the neonatal intensive care unit, researchers say. They also are more likely to contract infections and need breathing machines, according to a 2009 study in the New England Journal of Medicine and a number of other reports.

“We are finding out that the last weeks of pregnancy really do count,” said Leslie Kowalewski, an associate state director for the March of Dimes.

“At 35 weeks, the brain is only two-thirds of what it will weigh at 40 weeks.” Many organizations are responding with programs designed to eliminate early elective deliveries. Most significantly, chapters of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have begun to notify doctors about the serious consequences of performing early elective births.

With luck, as information about potential consequences spreads, expectant mothers and their doctors will decide to let nature take her course, for the sake of the mom’s health and her baby’s.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, MD, MPH

You’re Invited to a Book Launch Party!

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

My new memoir, Something to Prove: A Daughter’s Journey to Fulfill a Father’s Legacy, is going to be available from my publisher a couple weeks earlier than originally scheduled. And I wanted to do something special for friends, family, and fans to mark its arrival in bookstores.

So, if you’re in the New York/New Jersey area, I hope you’ll come celebrate with me at my Book Launch Party, on the 4th Floor of the Palisades Center Mall, Tuesday, December 14, between 7:00pm – 10:00pm.

We’ll have a special section of the café blocked off for the event. I’ll give a little talk, just to bring everyone up to speed on the genesis of this book, and its predecessor, The Ditchdigger’s Daughters. I’ll read from the book, and sign copies. (I can also personalize the signing for anyone who you might want to give the book as a Christmas present). And if the event isn’t too crowded, we should also get plenty of opportunities to mingle and chat a bit.

So, please, come join me, and share this special day. Coffee, pastries and other goodies will be available. I look forward to seeing you there. Time, place and other details are below:

Something to Prove: A Daughter’s Journey to Fulfill a Father’s Legacy
The Palisades Center Mall
4416 Palisades Center Drive – 4th Floor
West Nyack, NY 10994
Exit 12 off the New York State Thruway. (Get driving directions 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

My Memoir, Something To Prove, Will Be Available in Time for Christmas!

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

Something to Prove: A Daughter’s Journey to Fulfill A Father’s Legacy, my new memoir, was to be officially published at the end of December. However, I just learned that the publisher is going to be shipping books earlier than that – in time for gift-giving at Christmas.

So, if you’re looking for a Christmas present, especially for anyone who is a fan of The Ditchdigger’s Daughters, you will be able to find Something To Prove in your local bookstore by December 14th.

Or just order online at either Amazon or Barnes & Noble, and you can have it gift-wrapped and shipped directly.

I hope you’ll pick up a copy for yourself as well. And please write to me and let me know your thoughts.

– 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

Three ways to lower breast cancer risk

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

The conventional wisdom has been that, if you have a genetic predisposition to breast cancer, lifestyle changes, that might benefit other women, won’t help you. Your genes rule, so the thinking has gone until now, and there isn’t much you can do about it.

Now, I’m happy to report, new research in the journal Breast Cancer Research suggests that you don’t have to be a hostage to your genes. The study,  by researcher Dr. Robert Gramling of the University of Rochester in New York, followed approximately 85,000 post-menopausal women for more than five years. And while it was true that women with a family history of breast cancer were at greater risk to get the disease, he discovered something very promising. Women who:

  • exercised moderately (20 minutes per day for five days a week);
  • maintained normal body weight;
  • and drank no more than one alcoholic beverage per day

… lowered their risk of breast cancer. Yes, even those who had a family history of the disease.

Among those with a family history who followed the above guidelines and developed breast cancer, the rate was six in one thousand, compared to seven in one thousand among those who failed to follow the guidelines.

As I’ve been telling my patients and readers for years, there are so many benefits to maintaining a healthy weight. This study adds one more.

For your own health and the sake of those who love you, take good care of your body and it should take care of you for a very long time.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, MD, MPH

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

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 Amazon.com 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