In Emotional Female, Yumiko Kadota shares her journey as a young doctor, and what made her walk away

  • Emotional Female, by Yumiko Kadota. Viking, $34.99.

When Yumiko Kadota graduated from medical school, she had the optimism and drive that should be expected of a graduate doctor. Having toiled for almost a decade to achieve her qualifications, and staring down the barrel of another several years before she could achieve her dream of being a plastic surgery consultant, she was focused on her goals and motivated to achieve them.

Fast forward just a few years later, and Kadota had checked herself into a psychiatric program, suffering depression so deep she was unable to leave her bed for days on end.

How did she get there? How did the system fail her so profoundly?

In Emotional Female, Kadota shares her journey as a young doctor, slowly being crushed by the toxic culture of the hospital system in Australia. Despite her energy and enthusiasm, not to mention her considerable skill, Kadota's experiences as an intern, then a registrar, are of being constantly ground down by her colleagues, superiors and the system at large.

Working insane hours (often more than 20 days of work in a row without a break), suffering misogyny and even sexual harassment at the hands of her superiors, and afraid to speak out for fear of being branded as a complainer and effectively snubbed from the system as a result, it took Kadota literally shitting her pants before she woke up to the insanity of the medical system for its employees.

This is a gripping memoir. Kadota details her experiences with an honesty and self-awareness that allows the reader to contemplate the issues at the centre of the narrative with a sense of objectivity, despite being firmly grounded in the author's personal experience.

The narrative is rich with imagery, and the sense of pressure and anxiety experienced by Kadota comes alive on the page - I found myself gripping the sides of the book in horror, wondering how anyone manages to survive the conditions expected from doctors in our system.

A highlight of Emotional Female is the secondary narrative of Kadota's family, and their experiences as expats several times over in Singapore, the UK and then Australia. She thoughtfully intersects her experiences as a woman of colour with her experience as a junior doctor, and demonstrates the broader issues of racism and misogyny in the hospitals she worked in.

Emotional Female is a book that sweeps through you; despite the specificity of its topic, its message is universal, and the question at its centre is how much should we demand from people as the cost of success.

  • Yumiko Kadota will be in speaking as part of YWCA's She Speaks series at Kambri Cultural Centre, ANU, on May 4:
This story A doctor walks away from the medical system first appeared on The Canberra Times.