Our Favorite Doctors of Literature

Posted by Danielle Mohlman

Here at Quirk Books, we’re celebrating the birthday of Emily Blackwell, the third woman (ever!) to receive a medical degree in the United States. Happy birthday, lady! Eleven medical schools rejected Emily because of her gender before finally being accepted to Rush Medical College in Chicago. But a year into her degree, the college asked her to leave. It turns out her male classmates were spending too much time hating women and complaining to the Medical Society of Illinois. But Emily didn’t let that slow her down. She studied privately and went on to earn her degree in 1854 at Western Reserve University in Cleveland. (AKA Case Western Reserve University.) Want to learn more about this medical glass-ceiling smasher? Lucky for you, she and her sister Elizabeth are featured in Sam Maggs’ new book Wonder Women.


Andy from A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

Please tell us we’re not the only ones yearning for a forever doctor slash friend in this post-A Little Life world we all live in. Andy has been with Jude every step of his journey – medical emergency after medical emergency. It’s clear he cares deeply about his friend’s well being and it’s clear Jude trusts Andy with his life. We can’t get too into their relationship without giving a ton away (and believe us when we say you’re going to want to read this book) but what we can say is this: Hanya Yanagihara has crafted a friendship so deep, we have to pinch ourselves to remind us we don’t live in Andy and Jude’s world. Now excuse us while we all encourage our best friends to go to medical school.


Dr. Whittier from Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

This definitely falls under the “your fave is problematic” category and if you’ve read Nicola Yoon’s magnificent debut novel, you’ll know why. But even thought her methods are questionable, it’s clear that Dr. Whittier has sacrificed a lot to care for her 17-year-old daughter Madeline – our protagonist and hero. Madeline has severe combined immunodeficiency. Because something as small as a particle of dust could compromise her entire immune system, Dr. Whittier keeps Madeline under incredibly regimented care. Her entire world is the size of the Los Angeles home they inhabit. Madeline has never traveled beyond those four walls. But when your daughter is your patient, lines start to get really blurry. Especially when your daughter is seventeen years old. And falling in love for the first time.


Dr. Shark in Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston

Calling Dr. Shark a minor character in Exit, Pursued by a Bear would be a generous turn of phrase. The doctor only appears in a few pages of this incredible young adult novel, but his presence is as important as the plot itself. Again, revealing Hermione’s reason for seeking medical care would give away half the plot. (Why is that so often the case?) But we will say this: It’s easy to imagine a less poised doctor making a teenager feel awful about herself. But that’s not Dr. Shark. His tone is matter of fact and straightforward. He doesn’t try to talk Hermione into doing anything she doesn’t want to. He doesn’t offer her options laced in judgment and persuasion. And that’s exactly what every woman deserves when she’s in Hermione’s position.