The Medical School Interview by
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(10 Stories)

Prompted By Interviews

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When I entered Radcliffe in 1968, among the many things that needed to change was the status of women.  We were outnumbered 4 to 1 at the College, and representation for postgraduates was worse.  Work prospects were limited too—my musings about becoming an astronaut were dampened by the need to become a pilot in the military first (men only—even on commercial flights).  Professors were men, though I managed to get inspiration from quite a few with brilliant female teaching assistants.  We had a bag lunch-in at the freshman union to protest inaccessible food services.  There was one physician at the Health Services reported to be sympathetic to birth control requests.  Abortions were illegal and a roommate went to Puerto Rico when the unthinkable happened. I got involved with several women’s health projects, including the one in Somerville, and decided to apply to medical school.

applying for med school while female

At the time, women in medical school were in a smaller minority than women at Harvard.  We expected interview questions such as whether we were married, what would we do if we got married, how we would manage family and career, if we could undergo the rigors of training—none of which the male applicants would presumably be asked.  As I made the rounds of interviews, they were not terribly remarkable until I went to Stanford. I vaguely recall an indifferent discussion with a middle-aged, somewhat snarky, fellow who brought up the family and career question.  At that, I became quite animated and thanked him—I had been to a number of interviews and he was the first one to ask!  I was part of an effort to document inappropriate questions to female applicants, and now I had something to report.  I presumed I blew the interview.

I got in.  I attended my first choice elsewhere instead.

Profile photo of Khati Hendry Khati Hendry


Characterizations: right on!, well written

Comments

  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    Thank you for sharing this pioneering story with our group. I am two years younger than you and went to much more liberal Brandeis, where we were given a birth control handbook during our first week of school. But I was keenly aware that abortion was illegal in MA and MI, where I come from. It was legal in NY and I made a pact with a girlfriend there, if I ever needed one about what I would do. Mercifully, I never needed to stay with her in Manhattan.

    But, unable to find work in my chosen field of theater or teaching, and married right out college to someone in the computer field, I drifted into that line of work myself. The late 70s and early 80s were a challenging time for a woman to be on the road, selling software in such a male-dominated environment also. I was a novelty and had to be better than anyone else around, as well as handle myself with dignity and professionalism. I got the “do you plan to have children?” question in interviews too. I told them it was illegal to ask that question.

    • Khati Hendry says:

      Thanks for sharing your story. It is frightening that, so many years on, and despite so many inspiring positive changes, women still don’t have the autonomy over their reproductive lives we hoped and assumed would lie ahead.

  2. Khati! My favorite thing about this story was seeing your name on the by-line–seriously, welcome to Retrospect and I hope this will be the first of many. But that excitement about encountering your work here is not meant to downplay the quality of what you wrote: In just two paragraphs, you painted a meaningful picture that captured your own mentality, the social/cultural context of the times as you came of age, and the conflicts and confrontations that were emerging as little shoots of gender equality just barely began to push themselves above the soil and into the sunlight. Looking forward to hearing more on all those topics.

    • Khati Hendry says:

      Dale! Wonderful to see your name! I remember your brilliant lyrics to the RAT troupe (I wonder, wonder who-who wrote the book of war?)and I have carried on your legacy in re-imagined songs for all occasions. A skill I hadn’t expected to learn in college.

  3. Suzy says:

    Khati, I love this story! How wonderful that you told the Stanford guy to his face that he had asked the inappropriate questions you were trying to document. And then they accepted you, but you chose to go somewhere else. Perfect! Welcome to Retrospect! Now that you’re here, I hope you’ll keep writing.

  4. Marian says:

    I can definitely relate to this story, Khati, and at least attending a women’s college gave me a foundation of support that I found terribly lacking in graduate school. I am glad you called out the Stanford interviewer and were admitted anyway, good for you, even though you went elsewhere. Welcome to Retrospect!

  5. Yes Khati, one of the scariest scenarios during our 4-year political nightmare was the fate of Roe v Wade.

    Welcome to Retrospect!

  6. Laurie Levy says:

    Khati, I remember those days very well. When my husband started medical school in 1967, his class of 200 included 10 women. You were a pioneer back then. So good that nevertheless you persisted, Welcome to Retrospect!

  7. John Zussman says:

    Khati, I agree with Dale; this story captures the misogynist character of the times in just two paragraphs. Stanford’s loss was some other Med school’s gain. Ironically, I did attend grad school at Stanford (having not been asked that question), and found it more liberated than Harvard was.

    I too was glad to see your byline, since as I recall we were classmates in Soc Rel tutorial at Leverett House sophomore year. Welcome to Retrospect!

  8. Khati Hendry says:

    John, thanks for the shout out. Soc Rel classes became my second home in 69-70. What could be more relevant than those classes, the intensity fueled by The Strike and the world around us? They reinforced my intention to leave after sophomore year for the”real world”, which I did—an eventful year. And indeed the turn from a VES major to pre-med would probably never have happened otherwise, let alone all that followed.

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