The Last Rose of Summer by Mary Austin
While pursuing an independent research project as a premed at Cleary University, Mary Austin discovers a remarkably nontoxic drug that could change cancer chemotherapy as we know it. Her work is set for publication in a top tier journal until her mentors involve Dullahan Pharmaceuticals, a multinational pharmaceutical giant. Soon Mary finds herself mysteriously excluded from negotiations with the drug company, despite the fact that the project is entirely her work. Amidst egregious sexual harassment, sabotage, and finally death threats, her work becomes impossible. In response to her family’s pleas, she leaves Cleary and begins medical school at Whitehead College of Medicine, where she was accepted despite evidence her professors at Cleary tampered with her application process.
Years later, as a resident in pediatrics at Whitehead, she pours the story out to her brilliant and compassionate mentor, Dr. Daniel Taylor, who immediately allows her to leave residency for a period of time to recreate her work from Cleary. Her joy turns to horror and then determination when she finds out the following week that Dr. Taylor himself has just been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. She encounters roadblock after roadblock in the laboratory Dr. Taylor procured for her, and as he lies dying she finds out that in addition to these hassles, her drug stock has been deliberately sabotaged by the supplier the entire time she’s been working. The person who informs her of this laughs at her.
After Dr. Taylor’s death, none of the other doctors at Whitehead have any intention of letting her continue this work, nor leave the institution to work on it elsewhere. With no other ethical choice available, Mary gives up her academic career and sends all her work to a lab in another country. The story of her drug continues in the next book in the series, Abide With Me.
Targeted Age Group:: Adult Audiences – Adult audiences only. Although there is nothing sexual in the book, some material is shocking, and the complexity of the story and the science would prove too challenging for many young readers.
Heat/Violence Level: Heat Level 3 – PG-13
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
This novel should never have been necessary. Its content should have been a scientific paper years ago. However, after exhausting other options discussed in subsequent books, the author had to give up her career as a board certified pediatrician and then her personal safety to tell the story to the public.
The Camera Aversion of Scientists
If you want to see a lab empty out like the place is on fire, get a camera.
Almost everybody who works in labs is camera shy. This can be a problem if
you’re in that large majority and land in a prominent lab where the university (or
even local media crews) might be around on a regular basis depending on what’s
been discovered. These poor guys, who are just trying to do their jobs, want to
film scientists doing science, but the problem is that almost all of the scientists
want to run away.
One postdoc I remember even hid in the lab’s “hot room” to avoid a news
crew. That’s the term for the room where all the radioactive materials are
stored— very safely, really; there’s little to no risk to going in that room despite its
off-putting appearance. The university’s radiation safety staff inspects those
rooms regularly, and nobody’s allowed in there without knowing what they’re
But the door has those giant radiation warning signs on it, and my
colleague correctly guessed that the camera people sure as hell wouldn’t follow
…That guy in the hot room stood around for almost an hour with nothing
to do, until he was sure the crew was gone. Having successfully avoided
appearing in the video, he went back to work and faced nothing but a bit of
ribbing from the rest of us.
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