Happy Saturday! Today I’m going to continue what life as a med school spouse was like during years 3 and 4 of school!
End of Second Year, the USMLE Step One
As I mentioned yesterday, the Step One is the Licensing Exam that all future MD’s take during medical school. You have to pass in order to move forward and complete the program, and if you want the specialty and residency of your choice, you have to really do well on it. Tony took his exam at the end of June 2012. I was about 17 weeks pregnant when he took it. He studied from 7am until 9pm every single day for 6 weeks. This part was rough for both of us- rough for him because he was working so hard to study, and rough for me because I suffered from Hyperemesis Gravidarum (severe and persistent morning sickness) with our first born daughter Isla. (I’ve since had HG with all 3 girls!) All I wanted during week 8-16 of my pregnancy (pretty much the entire time he was studying) was for him to rub my feet and make me food and watch TV shows with me. It was SO hard for both of us to have to give up that nurturing time during one of my most vulnerable stages of pregnancy. In hindsight, it was worthwhile because he ended up getting an extremely high score and was able to choose the specialty that he wanted and get his Residency at Brigham & Women’s Hospital (aka Harvard) in Boston. We both had to keep our eyes on the prize during that time.
A Post USMLE Trip and Babymoon
Tony took his exam on a Friday and early the next day we boarded a flight from Rochester, NY to San Francisco. We planned a week long ‘Babymoon’ which included San Fransisco, Napa, Monterey, Carmel-by-the-Sea and Big Sur. I was working at a resort spa owned by Marriott at the time, so I used my hotel discount for all of our accommodations, and my dad graciously gave us his flight miles- otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to afford the trip during med school! It was such a fantastic trip- very relaxing with great food and lots of rest a few months before baby came! At the end of the summer, Tony started his clinical rotations. I’ll never forget when I was about 30 weeks pregnant and he was on Transplant Surgery rotation. Essentially, he could get called in at any time and had to hop on a private jet to procure organs, then fly to the recipient and get surgery underway for them to get their new organs! One Saturday night, I came home from a long day of 8 massage clients, and I had just put a pizza in the oven for us. At 8:15pm, right when we were about to sit down to eat, his pager went off. “I’m so sorry!” he said, “I have to go!” I sat there and burst into tears. Oh my gosh the hormones! We still laugh about this today. I got over it- watched a romantic comedy and got to have the whole pizza to myself that night. He very romantically sent me photos of himself and the team on the jet at 2am flying to the recipient. I have to say for medical spouse couples keeping a sense of humor is honestly the only way to get through some of those harder times! Remember that your partner/spouse misses you too!
Along Came Isla and, Deciding on a Specialty
On November 25, 2012 Isla Rose was born! Thankfully this was during Tony’s 3rd year, which was full of rotations. Some months were hectic but others he was home a lot, which was great! Tony had done a few Cardiology rotations and a few Surgical rotations including Vascular Surgery. He got great feedback from all of his attendings and was told he had incredibly gifted hands in the operating room. Having been a Guitar major this really was no surprise to me! He felt very torn over whether to choose surgery or a medicine specialty. He LOVED surgery but he didn’t like the lifestyle that it lent itself to- we now had a beautiful baby girl with plans to have more and he wanted to be around for them first and foremost. I was SO happy that I didn’t have to sway him to a decision and that he came to that conclusion on his own. I always told him that with my support came carte blanche-I wanted him to fulfill his highest potential and to do what would make him the most happy, whatever that looked like. ( I still feel this way!)
Cardiology holds some surgical aspects as well and so for Tony this was the perfect marriage of his interests. Some great pearls of advice he received along the way for anyone trying to decide on a specialty:
“If you can see yourself doing anything other than surgery- do that! Only do surgery if you feel it’s the ONLY thing that will make you happy because its a big commitment for the rest of your life”.
“In surgery you DO things. In medicine, you THINK about things.” In surgery there is a lot of physical activity as it is procedural and surgically based. In medicine, you have to solve a puzzle in making a diagnosis. You have to think to do both but one is more action based and the other is more investigative/cerebral.
“Just because you CAN doesn’t mean you SHOULD.” Don’t pick your specialty solely based on talents and abilities- being good at something doesn’t ensure that you will love doing it!
Third into Fourth Year
In May of 2012, when Isla was almost 6 months old, I decided to go back to school for Aesthetics. I knew that it was the perfect time, as we were heading into a much lighter year academically for Tony. I went to school M T W all day and then I condensed my full time work week at the spa to Th F Sat. My only day off was Sunday for 7 1/2 months. It was INSANE, but it proved to be such a great decision for my career. Being dual licensed made me even more able to provide for us, especially since I didn’t know where we would be moving to for Residency.
Since Tony had done so well on the Step One, he applied to all of the “top” residency programs in the country during his 4th year. He also got inducted into the AOA (The Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society- an Honors society for medical school that you are a part of for life once inducted) He interviewed at Brigham & Women’s, Vanderbilt, Johns Hopkins, Duke, MGH, University of Rochester, & Mayo Clinic to name a few. He brought me with him to Duke (which is funny because that is where we are now for Fellowship!) and I really liked the area, but Harvard was Tony’s dream.
This was both exciting and challenging- the major challenge was, being an only child, my parents actually re-located to Rochester during Tony’s second year to be closer to us since they knew we were planning to start a family. The idea of taking Isla 5 hours away from them broke my heart, especially since they had moved all the way out to NY for us. That being said, they knew that we were going to have to be mobile for the duration of training (aka for another 7-8 years!) The other challenge was that I happened to LOVE Rochester. Over the 4 years of medical school I had made some incredible friends, I enjoyed my work, and our apartment, even though it was tiny and had no dishwasher, was where we had brought Isla home from the hospital. It felt so difficult to let it go. Also, even though I happened to be from Massachusetts, I’m not really a huge fan of living close to Boston Proper. It’s expensive, the housing is small, the traffic is bad, and I was ready to be a homeowner! (We had been renting apartments since before we were married!) I set all of that aside, because as I said, I told him that I would never clip his medical wings. He had worked so hard and he owed it to himself to achieve as much as he could. Also, he knew that being at Harvard would open doors for us in the future to move wherever we wanted to and to be able to afford to own a home and enjoy the lifestyle we were working towards.
On Match Day, March 17, 2014 we opened that envelope and there it was- he had matched at his top choice- Brigham & Women’s Hospital. His parents were there as well as my Mom (and Isla too of course!) and they were very excited for us. I had texted my former boss at Bella Sante on Christmas Eve just a few months earlier to see if it would even be possible for me to come back to the spa should we move back to Boston. She said yes and it wasn’t just a “yes”- she was so genuinely excited to have me back! That made me feel really happy about moving back!
Shipping Back to Boston
One of my classmates in Aesthetics school was a young girl in her early 20’s who comes from a very large Mormon family. She and I had become friends during school and she adored Isla. She was ready for a change of scenery, and she agreed to move with us to Boston for the first year as our live-in Au Pair. We were able to travel with her a month after match day to try and find an apartment. We found one that we all liked but it fell through! Tony had to go back by himself in May and he found the place that we lived in for the whole 3 years of residency! I’m a bit of an idealist and a control freak when it comes to my living space, so this was a HUGE leap of faith for me to trust him to pick out our home and sign the 3 year lease, as well as moving in sight unseen! He did a great job. We got settled in in June of 2014 and Residency life began- by far the HARDEST years of all in the Medical Journey.
On Monday- all about Residency!
Thanks for stopping by! Xo, Ashli