Set in Seattle, Washington and Westchester County, New York from 1982 to 1987, Dr. Anne McTiernan begins her memoir at age twenty-nine, when she completes her doctoral training in public health research at the University of Washington. She and her husband are parents to four-year-old and three-month old girls. Anne soon realizes that jobs in her field are scarce, especially for women. Racked with feelings of inadequacy, Anne feels that she needs better credentials in order to land a job. She resurrects an old dream of becoming a medical doctor, something she had cast aside years ago when she thought she lacked the smarts or stamina to attempt this feat. To her surprise, her husband agrees to support her attending medical school. The family moves 3,000 miles to Westchester County, New York, where Anne will begin a new journey.
Over the first two years of medical school, Anne faces enormous and competing pressures—to learn the language and culture of medicine, to memorize a seemingly infinite amount of knowledge about the human body and the myriad ways it can fail, and to take care of her family. Within a few months of starting this new life, Anne is in deep trouble. She cannot handle the competing demands, and she feels isolated because there is no one in quite the same circumstances as she. The stress builds and builds, until Anne explodes with a series of paralyzing panic attacks that prevent her from studying and threaten her ability to function. She begins psychotherapy and starts on a journey of self-discovery. She realizes she has to change if she wants to survive.
Cured differs from other physician memoirs in its themes of motherhood, mental illness, and its perspective from a female physician. Throughout the book, Anne draws parallels between her life as a medical student and her later experiences as a doctor and researcher, providing a unique viewpoint on how she turned adversity into a strength and set of skills.