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UIHC surgeon pens first fictional novel

BY MADISON BENNETT | MAY 11, 2011 7:20 AM

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The second woman to ever be appointed the head of a Department of Surgery in America plans to retire.

But not before she branches out into the world of fiction.

Carol Scott-Conner entered the field of medicine almost 45 years ago. Then, it was a male-dominated field. The 64-year-old was one of 35 women in her 900-person class at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1974.

But Scott-Conner simply learned to be "one of the boys," she said.

"Being in a male-dominated environment makes you numb to the point where you don't think about [being a woman]," she said.

Carol Scott-Conner's new fictional book A Few Small Moments, a collection of short stories about women in the surgical field, was prompted by the lack of inspiring stories about women in medicine.

She said colleagues at medical conferences would ask her for recommendations of books to give to daughters or granddaughters with medical aspirations. But the only books she knew of focused on women's struggles to move up the medical ladder.



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She set out to write fiction that normalized the roles of women in hospitals. Rather than focusing on the fact a character is female, Scott-Conner focused on glimpses into the lives of surgeons who just happened to be women.

"There really is a difference between what she had to go through to be where she is," said Marilyn Marx, the president of the Association of Women Surgeons. "[A Few Small Moments] lays a great foundation for all those that come after her."

It has gradually gotten better, Scott-Conner said. In 1970, 25,507 female physicians practiced in the United States. By 2001, that number had grown to 205,903. And Marx said its not uncommon now to find more than half the doctors in medical school or a residency program are women.

"For the most part, when I was going into surgery, there were very few women role models around," said Sonia Sugg, a UI associate professor of oncology. "They were considered the exception, not the norm."

Scott-Conner has been a pioneer, Sugg said.

"She is someone who really started breaking down the barriers in terms of women in surgery," Sugg said. "Not only did she do that, but she did it in a very accomplished way."

Scott-Conner achieved the pinnacle of a surgeon — the head of the Department of Surgery — when she came to the UI in 1995.

"To be the head of a surgical department, you pretty much have to change jobs a couple times," she said.

Originally from the East Coast, she has earned four degrees and graduated from the University of New York College of Medicine in 1976.

Though she's been acclaimed in the medical field, she's no stranger to writing.

Scott-Conner's first published work, the medical textbook Operative Anatomy is in its fourth edition. In fact, her subsequent textbooks have made her esteemed in the field.

"When I came in, I didn't know her personally, but I knew of her," Sugg said. "One of my favorite surgery textbooks is actually written by her."

Scott-Conner has started the first year of "phased retirement," a five-year program, and said she hopes to continue writing.

"I think this is the first time I've had time to write and think without having to be a page away," she said.


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