Married in Medicine

Very frequently, I get messages from the curious (mostly pre-meds or healthcare professionals) asking me how I do it-- maintain a marriage while being in the medical field. To be honest, I still haven't learned how to react or how to answer. It's hard to answer a question that had never before crossed my mind because 1) I've never done medicine without him in my life and 2) it's fairly seamless and effortless, assuming you have a good partner. Now, I can imagine that many circumstances would make pursuing medicine much more difficult: having a disability, raising children, or caring for an ill family member. But simply being married, having the love and support of another human being as you embark on a challenging life journey? That's called luxury. And I try not to take it for granted. By NO MEANS is our story or marriage even close to perfect. We butt heads and get annoyed by all the little habits and tendencies. There are really really hard days, but if I look back on all the years, I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for our companionship.

Andrew and I began dating during our senior year of undergrad, right when I was taking the MCAT and planning my post-graduate endeavors before applying to medical school a couple years down the road. He himself was preparing for graduate school in physical therapy. From day one, he's believed in me. From driving me 4 hours north to wait around in a Prometric Center parking lot until my test was over, to watching me agonize over my applications, to telling me on the regular "You're going to be FINE," my pre-med journey was made better simply by having him to confide my anxieties.  I watched him too with pride, as he matriculated into his doctor of physical therapy program and succeeded in his courses all while staying grounded with a great sense of work-life balance. 

^babies graduating from college! We were the same major, and met in class :-)

^babies graduating from college! We were the same major, and met in class :-)

Having survived the interview process, getting accepted, and finally choosing a school (for variable reasons-- cost, proximity to family) he fully supported the decision to move 2500 miles away for medical school. Not only that, but he was willing to uproot his sunny southern California life for the dreary snow of western Pennsylvania. We had to spend a year apart, but the moment he finished school, he joined me on the east coast with an open mind and much to give. For four years of medical school, he patiently dealt with the sadness, the seasonal depression, my self-doubt, my constant 10-hour study days and my incessant need to complain. He put everything into perspective; he's always had a knack for pulling me out of the minuscule bubble of medicine. When match day arrived, I sighed the biggest sigh, knowing that all the hard work paid off and we could start the next chapter of training in a city we both loved. On graduation day I beamed proudly as the person who had relentlessly supported me placed my doctoral hood around me. It was such an iconic and meaningful moment for both of us. (Oh yeah, and somewhere in all that mix of medical school we somehow pulled off an outdoor, summer California wedding that was basically the best day ever.)

^This is Andrew shortly after I finished step 1, preparing to kick First Aid across the room :-P

^This is Andrew shortly after I finished step 1, preparing to kick First Aid across the room :-P

A snap from our high-energy, low key wedding <3

A snap from our high-energy, low key wedding <3

In residency the support continues. He knows the intricacies of my (still prevalent) self-doubts, the stories of the patients that break my heart (HIPAA compliant!), and the unease regarding my future career plans.  He has remained my rock and "big picture" encourager, reminding me that there is a life and a world outside the hospital walls all while motivating me to do it all (if I want to.) For those who know him, all will agree that he is one of the most entertaining and unique individuals on the planet, and with that comes a high-energy personality that to some may be overwhelming. He's opinionated and intensely engaging in conversation, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I want to never forget that there is a big world out there with a million things to talk about aside from disease and death and medications and patient outcomes and cost-effective care. I want to always come home, first venting my work frustrations, followed by conversations regarding the infinite universe and then, pondering the question if it's possible to teach animals how to drink tea. 

Us. Currently. Living in the suburbs, obsessed with our dog.

Us. Currently. Living in the suburbs, obsessed with our dog.

So, in answering the question of whether or not it's hard to be married while in medicine, Andrew may very well have a different answer than me ;-) But I promise, mine will always be an astounding "NO." It's a blessing that I must continue to recognize as such.  Don't be afraid to go on dates, to put yourself out there, and invest time and energy into another soul that makes you feel alive and betters you during your journey of career achievement.  In the end, your better grades from skipping out on making a real connection, or your promotion that happened at the expense of neglecting a relationship, may lead you to a place you never intended to be. You deserve both love and success, and each will require a little patience and a whole lot of compromise. 

Happy Valentine's Day. Love you all <3

Shanny, DO