Something to Prove: Memoirs of a Ditchdigger’s Daughter browsing by category


So You Want to Write a Book

Friday, September 21st, 2012

When I decided that my story might help other women striving to overcome their own circumstances, I worried that my expertise as a physician wouldn’t exactly translate to the process of writing a great book.  Instead of giving up right there though, I decided to look into hiring a writer to help me out.  Luckily, I found talented freelance writer and editor, Anita Bartholomew who truly is a book doctor.

After reading my first best-selling memoir, The Ditchdigger’s Daughters, Anita saw potential in the next chapter of my life as a professional woman trying to balance career and family.  Her writing skill and knowledge of the changing publishing industry allowed me to get exposure to a much bigger audience than I would have been able to do on my own.  With her collaboration, my newest memoir, “SOMETHING TO PROVE” won the Grand Prize in the New York Book Festival.  On my radio show, Inside Information for Women, Anita and discussed this process and how the publishing industry is shifting in a way that actually benefits small publishers and unknown authors.

As the cost of print media slowly begins to outweigh its profits, many publishers are scaling down and moving to digital publishing.  You’ve no doubt noticed the increase in e-books and e-readers, but many are unaware how this is changing the popularity of what it is we’re reading as well.  Before, you needed a book with surefire potential for big profits or a name that already had clout in the genre in order to get the attention of publishers.  Now though, many people are partnering with smaller publishing companies or even publishing and promoting their own work through digital formats.  This has allowed new authors to sell a lot more of their work, and this time, without losing the percentage a publishing company would have taken.  It has also, surprisingly, shifted what people are reading altogether; as steamy romance titles are easily concealed on e-readers and nobody knows whether someone is reading about politics or pop stars.  These digital authors and publishers have also increased competition in the publishing world in general, driving prices down to much more easily consumed costs for their audience, which translates into more sales for more writers.

Even though it is easier to get e-published these days, you’ll still need great writing in order to sell a lot of books.  I’m thankful I found Anita so that my book could have that chance.  If you too are dying to get your story told, whether fact or fiction, you don’t have to be the next great author, you just need a great idea and a partnership with a talented freelance writer like Anita Bartholomew.


– Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.


Pregnancy and Power? It’s About Time!

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

Although many of us have gone through a pregnancy and maintained a rigorous career at the same time, it’s not something you often see when it comes to Fortune 500 positions.  Really, you don’t see many women in Fortune 500 leadership positions at all.  With Yahoo’s hiring of Marissa Mayer as their new CEO though, they now have both and she’s getting a lot of media attention as a result.

When Yahoo made the controversial move to snag Mayer away from Google, it wasn’t her intelligence and obvious experience that made the media pounce on the story.  Instead, it was her pregnancy.  People just couldn’t understand why Yahoo would take on a pregnant woman to save their downward sliding company.  Obviously, their process for selection has been long and they’ve done their research regarding who has the ideas and skills necessary to turn their company around.  When their first pick got caught lying on his resume, they didn’t take long to convince Mayer to leave Google, their main competitor.

Some say that Mayer will not be able to devote the kind of time and energy needed to revive the company as she gets further into her pregnancy and especially during maternity leave.  It seems that these people have never met a modern woman.  Most American mom’s work 40 hour plus weeks and take care of two or three kids, all while performing well at their positions.  In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, seventy percent of American women with children under the age of eighteen are earning a paycheck while raising their children.  It’s shocking to realize that Mayer is the first pregnant Fortune 500 CEO ever.  Why can’t a woman use her uterus and her brain at the same time?  Has it really taken us this long to get over female stereotypes, particularly those concerning pregnancy?  This is the ultimate in multi-tasking. I know for a fact that both career and family can be balanced in a successful way.  In fact, I feel that it is my family who gave me the strength to achieve success in the first place.  My second memoir, Something to Prove, chronicles that journey.  I’m sure the arrival of Mayer’s baby will only drive her even harder to realize her career goals and those of Yahoo as well.  As far as seeing a pregnant woman in such a powerful position, I’d say it’s about time!


– Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.

New Research Shows Women Doctors Still Earning Far Less Than Men

Friday, February 4th, 2011

Anyone who has read my new memoir, Something to Prove: A Daughter’s Journey to Fulfill a Father’s Legacy, knows that I encountered at least as much gender bias as racial bias in my career. Now, a new study by economics professor Anthony T. Lo Sasso, PhD, and coauthors, of the University Illinois School of Public Health in Chicago, shows that women doctors are routinely paid much less than their male counterparts. Worse, the gap between the pay offered male and female doctors has been widening, according to this article about the study from MedPage:

Among new physicians entering the work force, women earned almost $17,000 a year less than their male counterparts — almost regardless of which specialty they picked — according to an analysis of starting salaries over a 10-year period.

In fact, the analysis of starting salaries for more than 8,000 physicians found that the pay gap between men and women increased almost fivefold — from $3,600 in 1999 to $16,819 in 2008.

It’s great to have the pay gap out in the open, but I must take exception to the way the authors of the study seem to place the blame for lower pay on the shoulders of the women doctors. The authors speculate that the pay gap might be explained because women take jobs that give them more balance between lifestyle and career, or because women are poor negotiators.

I am married to a fellow physician, and I’m sure he’d agree that I’m a terrific negotiator, and I’ve always worked as hard, if not harder, than him or any male physician we know. This is true of all the working women I know: physicians, administrators, nurses, executives, salespeople – all women. Blaming women for bias against them is just another aspect of the bias.

The perpetuation of the myth that it’s a woman’s own fault if she’s paid less, or passed over for promotion in favor of a less qualified man, must end. We women have to cry foul every time we hear it.

It’s still true that women must work twice as hard as men to be thought half as good. Even now, in the 21st century.

Isn’t it time that changed?

– 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