Essential Book Information
Dr Yumiko Kadota is a doctor based in Sydney and an advocate for mental health awareness and fair working conditions for junior doctors. After working in an unfair and toxic environment, she experienced severe burnout and resigned from her plastic surgery registrar position.
She went on to write the internationally-known viral blog post “The ugly side of becoming a surgeon” and publish her first book, Emotional Female. Dr Kadota reflects on her experience as a woman of colour working in a male-dominated surgical speciality and the importance of supporting junior doctors physically and psychologically.
Basic Plot Summary
Emotional Female is a memoir that recounts Dr Kadota’s childhood in Japan, Singapore, and the United Kingdom; through to her journey in medical school, internship and junior doctor years in Australia.
Yumiko was passionate about hand surgery and was acknowledged for her fine motor technique and empathetic communication skills. She actively worked in public hospitals as a plastic surgery unaccredited registrar for numerous years.
However, she was forced to work unjust rosters of 24 straight days, including nineteen 24-hour on-call duty shifts in a toxic, sexist environment. This combination of factors took a toll on her physical and mental wellbeing and she ultimately quit: “I got so sick, I was an in-patient for six weeks – and I never want to go back there”.
Yumiko provides a raw and personal insight into the struggles of surgical training as a member of a minority group: female junior doctor and woman of colour.
The inspiration for the title of the memoir comes from the time she was called at 3am during an on call shift for emergencies. A male colleague demanded that she urgently review a patient to make an outpatient appointment booking, and when she attempted to justify why this was unnecessary, he eventually told her to stop being an“emotional female”. This comment prompted Dr Kadota to contemplate why the comment ‘emotional’ exclusively aimed at women?
Why is being emotional in the work place seen as a weakness? Empathy is seen as a valuable asset to being an excellent doctor but also a good person. However, misogyny and toxic masculinity not only put women down for being emotional, but stop men from expressing their emotions.
Dr Kadota discusses numerous contributing factors that make surgical training difficult. These include white male privilege in surgery, micro aggressions, sexism, bullying and sexual harassment.
Emotional Female is a must read for everyone and anyone regardless of gender and whether or not you work in healthcare. It is a passionate and personal account of the toxic culture of bullying and overwork that junior doctors experience.
People contemplating leaving or changing careers, living with mental illness or experiencing discrimination in their personal or work life can take something away from this memoir. The morale is that you should always come first, your physical and psychological wellbeing are most important..
Review compiled by Susie Lee, Australia, 2021 Capacity Director.