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We have met Susan Levenstein both through her blog featured in Expatclic, and with the great interview about her 40-years experience of living and working in Italy. We are now thrilled to present her book, Dottoressa: an American doctor in Rome, with another short interview. Thank you Susan, and keep on being as great as you are!


Susan, you are about to publish a book, Dottoressa: an American doctor in Rome, and as you know at Expatclic’s we are avid readers, so we are thrilled to ask you a few questions about it. Let’s start with what kind of book it is, its topic, etc.

My book, Dottoressa: An American Doctor In Rome, is the tale of my adventures and misadventures practicing medicine in Italy, a memoir that’s really about Italy than it is about me.

It deals with the hookup culture, Italian hands-off medical training, the ironies of expatriation, why Italians always pay their doctor’s bills, and lots more, with enough humor that people tell me it’s a fun read. An independent publisher based in Philadelphia, Paul Dry Books, will be bringing it out as a physical book in May 2019, a couple of months earlier as an eBook.

I guess writing such a book must have been a big challenge in that your relationship with Italy surely comes up in every line. Do you feel you have managed to honestly convey your feelings about living for 40 years in the Bel Paese? What have been, if any, the difficulties in writing it?

american doctor in romeThat’s a very insightful question. The greatest challenge has definitely been to keep a proper balance between the positive and the negative. On the one hand, I have adored Italy since the first day I crossed the border, my patients and I have benefitted enormously from the National Health System, and my career has been more rewarding than most American medical friends’ in every way except financially.

On the other hand, the quality of Italian medicine is very unpredictable. Nowadays much of the system is world class, but it still struggles under a combination of underfunding and uneven medical education – and a few decades ago it was hopelessly behind the times.

In writing the book I’ve risked overemphasizing that downside, partly for a psychological reason: whenever I’d encounter something outrageous, I would write it down as a way of venting my anger and frustration. So in turning my scribblings into a final manuscript I tried to make sure my love and respect for my adoptive country, and the huge improvements in Italian medical care, would come through (and that I wouldn’t come across as an arrogant know-it-all). I fear I may not have succeeded very well, if Matthew Kneale’s enthusiastic pre-publication review calls the book “an analysis of Italian healthcare that is both informed and terrifying“!

Who should read Dottoressa? Whom did you have in mind when writing it?

I wrote this book because I felt driven to write, without giving any thought to potential readers. But given the popularity of books about Italy and the popularity of books about medicine, I’d think an amusing memoir that happens to combine these two sexy topics might attract a large audience.

Just for starters, I’d think any English-speaker who’s spent substantial time in Italy will find it fascinating. Not to speak of all the tourists who got the Italy bug while passing through briefly, the many readers who love eavesdropping on other people’s medical encounters, and medical professionals curious about a colleague’s career abroad. In my experience Italians like to read about how the world sees them, if the book eventually comes out in translation.

Susan Levenstein
Interviewed by Claudiaexpat
Rome, Italy
January 2019
Head picture ©AlessandroFerrario


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lale armstrong
lale armstrong
5 years ago

Susan: I am soooo looking forward to reading your book. With fondness and admiration, Lale