Frances K. Conley

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Walking Out on the Boys

Conley, Frances

Last Updated: Nov-28-2006
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography


Dr. Conley became, in 1991, the center of media attention when she publicly declared her reasons for resigning her position as Professor of Neurosurgery at Stanford University: a hostile work environment due to the sexism of the male professor promoted first to acting chair, then chair of her department. This book is her story, but as she notes in the introduction, it is "one of many that could be told by women doctors across the country, about this institution [Stanford University] and many others like it."

Dr. Conley has been a remarkable pioneer in academic medicine: in 1975, she became the first female faculty member at Stanford in any surgical department. She was immediately elected the first female chair of the faculty Senate. She has led an active, innovative research team investigating the immunology of brain tumors. She is the first female tenured professor of neurosurgery in the country.

The book offers behind-the-scenes views of the anatomy lab and medical school, residency and sleep deprivation, the operating room and hospital medicine, and, above all, the political parrying and power struggles in academic medicine, particularly in the dean's office. In a bold move, Conley uses the real names of top administrators and those who had previously been identified in the media--not only concerning her issues, but also those involved with scandals that were unfolding concurrently in other departments.

Because of the circumstances surrounding her resignation and subsequent rescindment of the resignation, she became aware of many instances of sexism, gender discrimination and harassment, not only in academia, but throughout hospital and research environments. Her current position within the University and Veterans Affairs hospital enables her to be a strong voice for women's issues. This book chronicles her personal journey and acknowledges the support of her husband, parents, mentors, and friends along the way.

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