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TGIF! And Happy February! (Winter is almost over! YES!) So, on Monday I shared the back story of how my husband and I met and married and how he decided to take the path to medicine. Today I’m going to share all about medical school and life as the wife of a med student!
Before Med School: A Timeline
Tony enrolled in his first pre-med pre-req in the Fall of 2005. He took one class per semester that his work very graciously paid for (He was working in Corporate Sales for BOSE Corporation at the time!) Now, getting into medical school definitely goes beyond having a good GPA and a decent score on the MCAT. Medical Schools look at your background, which includes volunteer opportunities, research, experience in the actual medical field as well as shadowing physicians (which essentially means you follow them around in clinic for the day- I’ve done it in Dermatology and I love it!) Tony and I also took a course in the Cadaver Lab together through my Massage Therapy program. That was such an incredible experience for us a both medical hopefuls as well as as a couple. Additionally, in order to build his resumé, Tony began volunteering at Milford General Hospital (near where we were living at the time) in the Emergency Department. He made sure that all of the rooms in triage were well stocked with supplies and assisted if patients had questions. Another really interesting thing was that one of Tony’s customers at BOSE was a retired Neurosurgeon. We will call her Dr. M. She also played the violin- she and Tony had connected when she called as a customer and she was so overjoyed that he wanted to pursue medicine. The strangest thing was that every single time he had doubts about whether or not it was the right path to pursue, he would randomly hear from her in an email or text saying, “Let me know where you are in your journey and if you have any questions! I think becoming a Doctor is such a wonderful idea for you!” To this day we call her his “medical guardian angel”. And trust me, every physician needs at least one of those to offer encouragement, as it is such a long road!
We were married in June of 2007 and in 2008 we moved closer to Boston, to Waltham, Simultaneously, BOSE Corporate had to do a lot of lay-offs due to the big recession. (I was EXTREMELY fortunate to be a massage therapist during this time. What we found was that people were very stressed and it actually made them come in more often for massages- especially since they were forgoing their big family vacations for the time being- I saw SO many clients who took time off from work to come in for a little staycation! Things were absolutely booming for me and I picked up extra shifts and took advantage of this time, since we were saving up to make sure we had a big nest egg to fall back on during med school!)
As a result of accepting this layoff package, it freed Tony up to take on a full time research position at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. He did research in Oncology- more specifically in Stage 4 Metastatic Melanoma and in Hematology/Oncology. He finished up his classes and prepared to take the MCAT in 2009. I’ll never forget, we went on a cruise with my parents for my Mom’s 50th birthday. The MCAT was only a few weeks away, and Tony was very nervous about taking a break from studying for it. We were on a Waverunner in the middle of the ocean going 50 miles per hour (Tony driving, me holding on for dear life) when he yelled, “I SHOULD BE STUDYING FOR THE MCAT!!!!!” HA!!! I was so impressed with his commitment and how disciplined he was in preparing for this huge test. When we got back home he went right back to task. The day of the exam (which is 7 hours long!) he called me at the halfway point while I was in between clients at the spa. He was so freaked out and he thought he was failing! But he actually ended up scoring ridiculously well on it. I’m preeetttyy sure they design the test that way- most physicians will tell you that next to the USMLE and other Board Exams it’s one of the most nerve wracking experiences as a physician hopeful!
The majority of 2009-2010 was spent interviewing and traveling to medical schools and by the spring of 2010 we knew we were headed to The University of Rochester in NY. (So- from graduation from Berklee to actually beginning Medical School was a total of 5 years!)
Arriving at The University of Rochester
As a Licensed Massage Therapist, I was SO lucky to be working at the best spa in Massachusetts, Bella Sante. By that point I had been promoted to Corporate Educator, which meant that I trained all of the new hires for all three spa locations (Boston, Wellesley and Lexington), designed treatment protocols as well as ran trainings for other departments such as Nails (offering massage techniques to enhance their services). I felt like I had reached such a fantastic place in my career with such a wonderful company and I had SO much anxiety about leaving. (They were so incredibly supportive the entire time- I even got to go back and work there when we moved back to Boston for Residency- more on that on Monday!)
An added stressor was that I was licensed in Massachusetts and NOT in New York State. Each state has different licensing and education requirements. My excellent program at The Bancroft School of Massage Therapy was around 670 hours, and NY State required 1000 hours of training. There were other former Bancroft students who had moved to NY so the school knew just what to do to support me through the transition. I was able to take additional courses through correspondence to make up for the hours, but the BIG thing was that I had to sit for a NY State Board Exam. I had been out of school for 4 years at this point, and even though I still continued to study my Anatomy and O’s and I’s periodically to keep things fresh, I knew this was going to be a lot to tackle. The other thing was that NY State only offers its board exams twice per year- in August and in January. We were moving to NY in July which meant I had to take the board ASAP in August. The other very nerve wracking this was that if you failed the board exam on your first attempt, your temporary license to work was suspended and you couldn’t practice massage therapy until you passed (no pressure!) So, we moved to Rochester with me employed at a spa under another Massage Therapist’s license for the time being, and I also took a position working the front desk at The Onondaga School of Therapeutic Massage. I knew that I wanted to teach there and the owner thought this was an excellent way for me to get my foot in the door before sitting for the Boards. This proved to be invaluable as I was able to have access to study guides and had a lot of my questions about the boards answered by the faculty and staff there! I really was very fortunate to have been there! When I wasn’t answering phones or helping the students, I was sitting down and studying for the board every chance I had. (I passed and found out that I had passed at the end of September that year!)
In between all of this, Tony started school. His White Coat Ceremony kicked things off (pictures above!) and he jumped into classes right away. They started with a class called HSF- Human Structure and Function which is both lecture and lab (cadaver lab). My favorite part was meeting all of his new classmates (one of which is one of my best girlfriends and Everly’s Godmother!) I was so excited for him to be finally beginning this important part of his journey. As it went on, there were certainly challenges. The biggest challenge for me as they got deeper into their program was the social aspect. Most everyone in his class was young and single (very few married couples at this age and stage of life!) In social gatherings, it was so often that I was the only one in the room who was not a medical student. It still was a dream of mine to pursue this path, but I really didn’t think it could be done with motherhood, which was another very big dream to us. I knew that my important role at this time was to be the supporter, but it took a lot of humility to be that. (I’m being completely honest!) Suddenly, my husband and all of these friends had their own language they were speaking, and spent the majority of their time together. It was easy to feel “left out”, although I must say my Tony did a very good job to try and prevent this, as we were a couple first and foremost. Another thing that helped was living a little further away from campus than his classmates- it was good to disconnect in our own little haven. Also, he formed a band with some of his classmates and I got to be the lead singer! That was very fun for us as a couple and it really made me feel included in his world. Also, I think if I hadn’t wanted to become a Physician I would have felt happy that I wasn’t studying for those long hours and going through the paces that he had to go through!
My solution to feeling like I was somehow missing the boat with med school was to dive into my work and my career, and to continue furthering my education where I could. I continued to teach at the Onondaga School of Therapeutic Massage. I taught Law & Ethics, Professionalism, Marketing, Business & Communications as well as was the Assistant Teacher for Shiatsu, Sports and Swedish Massage Classes. We didn’t have children yet, so I did this in addition to working full time as an LMT at a resort spa. I can remember some days being a blur- going from the spa in the morning into the afternoon and then driving to OSTM to teach until 9:30! I took every opportunity for work I could get!
During Tony’s second year of medical school I drove back and forth to Boston for 7 weekends (over the course of about 8 months) and did my Yoga Teacher Certification with Kevan Gale at Stil Studio. I really dove into my inner and spiritual life during that time, and had the privilege of studying with Lama Migmar, Buddhist Chaplain of Harvard University. (I share some of the things I learned from him here).
In August of 2011 I opened my own massage therapy practice within a dear friend’s Chiropractic practice. I practiced massage therapy as well as energy work and hosted monthly meditation nights in my small treatment room. I’m definitely not the entrepreneurial type, but this was a really great learning experience for me, especially since I was teaching my students how to open their own practices at OSTM! My business background at Berklee served me well during that time!
On the heels of my Yoga training, I was approached and asked if I would teach meditation to patients and their families at the Palliative Care Unit at Strong Hospital (The main hospital of The University of Rochester Medical Center) under Dr. Timothy Quill, MD. Dr. Quill is a pioneer in his field, as he is the founding director of the unit at URMC and has written many books, one specifically, “Death with Dignity“, and his mission is to empower patients and their families for a peaceful passing. It was such an honor to be there. (I will write more about this as a separate post!)
Shortly after starting at The Unit I became pregnant with our first born daughter. We had wanted to become parents sooner, (at this point we were about to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary) but we tried to time everything so that our baby would be born after the USMLE (also known as The Step One Exam). The Step One happens in June at the end of 2nd year, and it’s the biggest exam of medical school, as this is the one you have to not only pass to obtain your medical license (if you don’t pass you can’t finish school!), and if you want the specialty and residency of your choice, you have to absolutely crush it, as programs in all specialities are very competitive and these scores are weighted very heavily! (Another ‘no pressure’ moment, right?!)
So! Coming up tomorrow…
And Baby Makes Three!
Studying and prepping for the USMLE, our baby moon trip to California the day after he took the exam, and later the arrival of our first born, Isla Rose during Tony’s 3rd year of medical school. I am going to share what it’s really like to have a family during school, working/career, matching for Residency, and moving again!
Thanks for stopping by! XO, Ashli