Book Review: July 2023

Behind Her Scalpel: A Practical Guide to Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery with Stories of Female Surgeons 

Authored and Edited by Cathy Hung, DDS

Dr. Cathy Hung is a board-certified oral and maxillofacial surgeon and a solo practice owner in New Jersey. She is a native of Taipei, Taiwan and came to the US alone at age eighteen on a student visa. She earned her BS in psychology with a minor in music from UC Berkeley and DDS from Columbia University. She received her OMFS training from Lincoln Medical and Mental Center in the Bronx, New York. She is an alumna of the American Dental Association’s Institute for Diversity in Leadership program. She is also a speaker, writer, and Certified Life Coach in cultural competency. She is an author, blogger, and selected member of Forbes’ Women Forum and Rebecca Minkoff’s Female Founders Collective.

Behind Her Scalpel originated from a thought Dr. Hung had on a flight from Newark to Chicago in September of 2019 when she began the Institute for Diversity in Leadership program with the American Dental Association. She realized her identity as a first-generation immigrant from Taiwan who pursued a career in oral and maxillofacial surgery as a woman would appropriately represent diversity within a profession. Dr. Hung introduces her book by highlighting its specific goal: to inspire young women to learn about and pursue careers in the specialty of oral and maxillofacial surgery. Additionally, she utilized Behind Her Scalpel as a platform to allow her OMFS colleagues to share their own unique journeys to OMFS.

Her first chapter focuses on the scope and history of the field of oral and maxillofacial surgery. This chapter itself was valuable to appreciate how far the field has come and clarified the confusions that commonly arise with the interchangeable titles of the specialty and the pathways one can take to becoming an oral maxilla facial surgeon. The next chapter dove into the progression of diversity and inclusion of the field and she opens with one of her favorite quotes by Verna Myers, “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.” I truly felt that this quote painted the perfect picture to help any lay person understand the difference between diversity and inclusion. Dr. Hung also takes a moment to recognize the trail- blazing woman in surgery and dentistry. Despite the strides that have been made it is shocking to see how underrepresented women are in surgery and even more so in OMFS.

Undoubtedly the most powerful aspects of Behind Her Scalpel are the collection of stories written by the surgeons themselves. Despite every story being unique, there are paramount themes of resilience, persistence, grit, empowerment, appreciation, mentorship, and allyship. Ironically many of the surgeons indicate that pursuing OMFS was never a plan they intended and their journey was far from linear but in fact, they cannot imagine it playing out any better. They worked their way into amazing leadership and employment positions that they otherwise would have never imagined. They extend their appreciation to all the women that paved the way and the men that supported their training and careers. As someone who just finished surgical residency interviews and is playing the waiting game to see where the NMRP Match will take me, I appreciated stumbling upon this read.

The stories shared resonated with me and provided me reassurance that life may not go as planned but it will work out. As long as you work hard and are resilient and passionate about your dreams, there will be a way to make them reality. Behind Her Scalpel encourages you to be your own fervent advocate. There have been people that trekked the path before you and if not, you will be the first to create a path for those who follow. It is not going to be easy but it is going to be worth it. I would like to extend a thank you to Dr. Hung for her book, because it definitely accomplished what it was meant to do. Cheers to a brighter future for women in surgery!

About the Reviewer: Natalia Correa, MD, MS

Natalia Correa is a rising general surgery intern at the University of Miami Holycross Health Hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She completed her medical education at Florida State University College of Medicine and graduated in 2023. She completed her Master’s in Medical Sciences at the University of South Florida in 2020 and Bachelor’s in Exercise Physiology at Florida State University in 2018. She was born and raised in Miami, Florida and both of her parents are from Bogota, Colombia. Natalia is training as the first surgeon in her family. Her most cherished accomplishments are sharing her journey as a Latina medical student to inspire the next generation and advocating for a more diverse medical field. As a surgeon, Natalia aspires to remain involved with medical education, serve as a mentor for future surgeons, and start her own scholarship program. She has interests in trauma and plastic surgery but wants to keep an open mind as she continues her journey. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, exploring new places, and enjoying various cuisines. She also cherishes the time she spends with her family and friends, especially when she gets to go back home.

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