Only two words come to mind when a publicist contacts me to host an author on my blog and those words are humbling and honor. And Tricia from Media Muscle has bestowed that honor again. Today I have the pleasure to introduce you to, the distinguished Physician and Author, Dr. Yvonne S. Thornton. So, I ask, that you help me give the warmest welcome to Dr. Thornton as she stops by today and tells us about her latest novel.
She is the author of The Ditchdigger’s Daughters, her memoir about growing up in a poor family with parents who were determined to see all their daughters rise above their circumstances and become doctors, and Woman To Woman, a health guide that answers many questions women have about their bodies from someone who’s been on both sides of the stirrups.
During her 35-year career in medicine, she has conducted research at The Rockefeller University, the National Institutes of Health Pregnancy Research Branch, National Naval Medical Center, Naval Medical Research Institute, and New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center. She is the author or co-author of more than a dozen scientific papers. She also serves as a reviewer for the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
She received her medical (M. D.) degree from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City and her Master of Public Health in Health Policy and Management from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University.
My first memoir, The Ditchdigger’s Daughters chronicled my family’s life, centering around my father, Donald Thornton, a blue collar worker who had dropped out of high school at age 14.
My father wanted a better life for his five daughters and decided that we should all become doctors. Never mind that this was the 1950s, when women weren’t expected to have such ambitions – especially not young black women from poor families. My father had a dream and together with my mother, they developed a plan to make that dream a reality. Despite the odds, three of their daughters did become doctors; a fourth became an attorney.
Since 1995, when The Ditchdigger’s Daughters was first published, I’ve gotten letters and emails from readers, telling me how inspired they were by the story, and how much they wanted to know what had happened after the close of the book. Something to Prove: A Daughter’s Journey to Fulfill a Father’s Legacy is my answer to those readers.
As readers of Something to Prove will discover, in the 1980s, academic medicine was very much a white male bastion, and the presence of a black female Ob-Gyn, especially one whose credentials matched those of the members of that exclusive club was greeted, shall we say, less than enthusiastically.
Because my sub-specialty is high-risk pregnancies, Something to Prove is also filled with heart-stopping moments in the operating room, such as the emergency surgery we were called on to perform on a woman whose fetus had developed in her abdomen, completely outside her uterus… and the tragedy barely averted when a young woman, who ignored the warning signs of infection, came to the hospital, hemorrhaging blood almost faster than we could replace it.
What I hope readers will find in this book though, beyond the drama, is inspiration to show them that if I could succeed despite financial hardships, setbacks, gender and racial discrimination, they can too. We women have always had to work twice as hard to be thought half as competent (but you know the rest of that old saying).
– Yvonne S. Thornton, MD, MPH
President Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey counted themselves among the thousands of ardent fans of Dr. Yvonne Thornton’s beloved bestseller, THE DITCHDIGGER’S DAUGHTERS (1995), which eventually became a movie. Now she continues the remarkable true story in SOMETHING TO PROVE: A Daughter’s Journey to Fulfill a Father’s Legacy (Kaplan Publishing, January 2011) as the first of the Thornton sisters to become a physician and the first African-American woman in the country to become a double-Board Certified specialist in obstetrics, gynecology and maternal-fetal medicine.
Dr. Thornton tells the story of her amazing father who moved his wife and daughters from the tenements in Harlem to a small house in New Jersey that he built with his own hands from materials bought on a ditchdigger’s salary. Donald Thornton cherished a mighty dream – that all of his daughters would become medical doctors, respected professionals in white coats and “scripperscrappers” (stethoscopes) – a designation he believed would shield them from the pernicious specter of prejudice. To pay for their educations, he began the all-girl Thornton Sisters band and taught them how to work hard: his girls went to school during the day, studied at night and played gigs on the college circuit every weekend.
SOMETHING TO PROVE picks up where the first memoir left off with the passing of Yvonne’s beloved father, Donald Thornton, and the beginning of Yvonne’s career as an assistant professor at The New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center. It was there that Dr. Thornton established and developed the program for a new form of early prenatal diagnostic testing known as CVS (chorionic villus sampling) that is in common use today. As Director of Clinical Services at Cornell, Dr. Thornton was consigned to the sub-basement with no operating budget and expected to teach, run the clinic and establish a private practice.
Remembering her father’s teachings never to give up and to “build her own house,” Dr. Thornton found ways to improve the clinic and bring better care to her patients. She handled the most difficult – and often frightening – medical cases, including a baby born outside the womb, while dealing with a prejudiced and stifling bureaucracy. Turning to her orthopedic surgeon husband for support, Dr. Thornton pushed herself to her limits to be there for her patients, her husband and their two children.
After years of being passed over for promotions and opportunities, Dr. Thornton left Cornell to establish one of the first prominent centers for Perinatal Diagnostic Medicine at Morristown Memorial Hospital under her beloved mentor. It was an ideal position until her mentor’s retirement, which led her to an appointment that finally shattered the glass ceiling of medical academia and made her one of only 12 percent of female physicians to attain the academic rank of full professor.
Interweaving the challenges and triumphs of family life with her professional joys and sorrows, Dr. Thornton paints a vivid portrait of a woman who exceeds her father’s dreams and sees that dream live on in her own son and daughter as they extend the family legacy by entering the fields of neurosurgery and reconstructive surgery, building upon the bedrock foundation Donald and Itasker Thornton built with their very own hands.
You can visit Dr. Thornton’s website here: http://www.doctorthornton.com/biography.htm
Tricia, from Media Muscle and Dr. Thornton, have generously offered a chance for one of my followers to win this inspirational book.
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