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Lives of Doctor Wives: November 2014

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Let the match be the bad guy, and other advice to get you through your holiday dinners

I kind of hate that the match spans the holidays, because instead of focusing on turkey and presents and thanks and families, there's always this sneaky voice in the back of your mind saying "the maaaatch is coming cloooooser." And then there are the louder voices of well-meaning relatives who are so innocently curious about the match process.  

It's been a few years since we matched, but I still remember agonizing over some of the questions and commentary we got from our families. For those of you in the midst of matching this year, here are some tips of how I wish I'd handled things when we were matching.  

First: Avoid specifics, and don't make promises. When Grandma tells you that there's a program near her, and you know the program's not a great fit, you can reply: "Oh Grandma, it would be so fun to live closer to you! I'll let you know if they invite us to interview there. And could you pass the gravy?" Oftentimes, explaining that not every program is right for you is a much longer and more emotionally perilous conversation than you want to have over dinner. Mention its positives and that if they invite you, you'll go, and conveniently forget to mention that you didn't even apply there.

Second: Blame everything on the magic of the match. If Uncle Steve asks where you want to match, and your dream program is an eye-watering two-thousand miles away from family, you can say, "Just to cover our bases, we're applying all over. We're definitely looking at [program near family], and also at [a few other places you're applying]. We're so excited to see where the match will send us! How's cousin Mike doing in school?" Later, you can follow this up with, "We're as shocked as anyone that we matched [far, far away]. We're going to make the best of it, though, and we're so, so excited we matched! Come visit!" Let the match be the bad guy. You don't want to move far away, but the match is making you. 

Third: Don't (necessarily) share your rank list. When your mom tries to pin down your rank list, you can say, "Man, I wish my husband would make up his mind about it! I think he'll be up until midnight on the night it's due getting it sorted out. Why didn't Aunt Emily eat anything but jello salad at dinner? Is she on another crazy diet?"

That third point might need more explanation: when my husband was a second year, we heard of a couple that refused to share their final rank list with a single soul outside of AMCAS. I thought they were crazy, and two years later we happily spilled our list to everyone. I have since seen the wisdom of the other approach.  Here's what happens: as soon as you mention "We're hoping to match at X," your family and friends hear "They're going to match at X!" This invites all kinds of comments, ranging from "When you're at X, we'll come visit you! They have an amazing museum there that I've always wanted to visit!" to "Why X? What's wrong with the programs closer to home?" Maybe this doesn't make you feel crazy, but for me, I felt like if we didn't match at our number one, we were letting everyone down.

We didn't match at our number one. Or two, three, or four. We matched about halfway down our list, at a far-away program we now love but weren't very familiar with during the interview process. We spent the week following the match in mourning for those programs we didn't match at and, unfortunately, some family members did too. My poor, sweet husband kept getting asked "So...what do you think you did wrong at the other interviews?" (Answer: not a single thing. Ortho is competitive!)  Keeping your match list to yourself, or at least to a small, select support group, can help avoid those awkward moments.

Fourth: Support your significant other, completely. When your cousin says, "You need to get your husband to apply in X field or Y location,"or "I can't believe he's taking you away from us!" remember this phrase: "Becoming a doctor is my husband's dream. I am so happy to support him and his dream, wherever it takes us, just as he's supported me with mine." 

And as long as you mean those words when you say them, you'll get through whatever the match throws your way, together. 


Friday, November 21, 2014

Moving to new places is like finding the right relationship

Moving to new places is like finding the right relationship

by: Whitney Crisafi
DrH and I just completed a move to the great Mid-West for his first year of residency. We'd lived on the West Coast, the East Coast, and the Caribbean, so seeing the Mid-West just made sense (plus, the program seemed like the perfect fit). While our great Buckeye state has its quirks, we are settling in quite nicely. We can almost see ourselves wanting to stay forever! But, don't get me wrong. I, personally, have not always been so adventurous. Growing up, I was ignorant of anything east of Utah and moving to the East Coast was not something I particularly took to. It was cold. And windy. And full of pot holes.

I'm not going to lie: it was easy to complain about the things I didn't like there. The Costco was always crowded. Our power went out for 14 (14!) days. For some reason the city hated dogs. It was easy to lose perspective. Adjusting to a new place is never easy. For some who had a hard time adjusting to where DrH went to medical school it was easy to complain about say, people getting mugged or the water going out or the grocery store not stocking their favorite licorice for months at a time (that was just me). And just when we felt somewhat settled, it was time to move again for The Match. All this moving made me want to have a nervous break down. 

However,  on a cold night as I was doing the dishes, I had a thought. Because my best thinking occurs over dirty plates and the lack of a dishwasher. 

Moving to new places is like finding the right relationship.

 Remember when you were 16 and you had your first "serious" boyfriend and your dad was just like, "What are you doing?! Don't you want to just date a lot of people and...find out, you know, the type of person you like....what you like and don't like? Or never date anyone ever?" 

Yeah, moving is like that.

I've lived in quite a few different places. My hometown was homogenous and my mind. was. blown. when I moved to California for the first time. Every time DrH and I move, there are different aspects of our new city to get used to. That's the tough and, ultimately, the awesome thing about moving so much.

You get to experience different "types" of cities. Different people, different cultures, different food, different weather, different attitudes, different religions. Somewhere along the way, you find you have preferences you didn't even know you had! You find yourself thinking where you want to live when you ultimately (finally) settle down. Whether a big city with tons of nightlife is your thing. Whether the most important thing to you is having nice weather year round (what did I say about staying in the Mid-West...?) or whether you don't mind having to put on a thousand layers when you go outside with your crazy dog who has to go to bathroom in complete, uninterrupted privacy. If you like having a car or think walking everywhere is awesome. If good quality grocery stores that stock the best peach cobbler ice cream in the world are a want or a need (Need!).

Or whatever.

The point is: it's a pretty amazing opportunity to live in so many different and new places and experience so many different cities. Even if you don't exactly enjoy where you're currently living. Even if you're basically at the mercy of The Match. It's a challenge. It changes you.

And when you finally find the right place and finally settle down in one spot (which we will. Someday!)...well, that...that will make all the other places you've lived seem pretty worth it. :)

(At least that's what I'm going to tell myself as I brave the Mid-Western winters.) 

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Pre-Med Perspective: It's the climb.

The infamous MCAT is behind us. The applications are in. Secondaries are complete and fees are paid. Now comes the all too familiar waiting game. Ever since I've been married to DH, it's been a test of our patience for our lives to move forward. Seven months after we were married, my husband was deployed to Iraq for 15 dreadful months. After DH was gone for only 30 days, I received news that would play a huge part in our life's course. On Halloween night as I sat by a bonfire with my best friend, my phone rang at 11:36pm. My husband had been hit by a roadside bomb. My heart was beating from my chest as I heard the words coming from my point of contact over the phone. For the next few hours I was restless and prayerful until the moment I heard his voice over the phone. It's surreal to me. It's so hard to understand the pain he felt and I cannot imagine what he lived through. As horrifying and dark the incident was, I am thankful. There is always something good to be found in even the most awful events. From this single event came my husbands desire to become a Doctor. He was the first to administer first aid to the other soldiers wounded in the explosion. It changed him. It sparked a fire in him that I've never seen before. Though his recovery was long and difficult, his doctors impacted his life in a big way and he knew he wanted to do the same for others. So here we are trekking up this mountain. While I am counting down the days until we reach the top, I have to remind myself to enjoy the climb.

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Friday, November 7, 2014

What I learned about being a doctor’s wife from being a doctor’s kid

What I learned about being a doctor’s wife from being a doctor’s kid

by: Emily Roberson

My mother is a cardiologist. She started medical school when I was two and finished

training when I was 13. When I started dating my husband, everyone in my family

laughed - “Why would anyone do this twice?”

Many years later, we’ve survived med school, residency, fellowship and now the first

few years as a practicing physician. We have three kids and a happy marriage, and

the lessons I learned as a doctor’s daughter have served me well as a doctor’s wife.

So here they are:

1) It doesn’t matter what day you celebrate on, just that you celebrate – The

year I turned 16, my mom had to work on my birthday. My dad and sister and

I went out to dinner. We told the waiter it was my birthday and I got cake.

Then the next night, my mom was working, but we tried to go out anyway.

She didn’t get done in time to meet us. We told the waiter it was my birthday

and I got cake. That weekend, my mom was off so we went out to dinner as a

family. We told the waiter it was birthday and I got cake. You see where I’m

going here – instead of a birthday, I had a birth-week (and a lot of cake).

Bonus tip: Have your birthday cake and sing in the morning before and

work, so you aren’t waiting for the doctor to get home.

2) Nobody wants to be at the hospital on Christmas – When I first married

my husband (when he was in medical school and still had Christmas off)

his mother was worried about how we would do Christmas Dinner. How

would we organize it with the two families? Would she need to change her

traditional time? I had to laugh. We have one family Christmas tradition. We

open our presents and eat Pillsbury cinnamon rolls. If my mom has been on

call, we wait till she gets home; if she’s working, we do it before she leaves.

The rest of the day is eating popcorn, watching movies and playing with your


Bonus tip: You don’t have to celebrate on the actual day. Thanksgiving

Dinner tastes just as good on Saturday.

3) Don’t call a million times asking when they’ll come home – when they can get

home, they will get home – Sick people are inconvenient. They don’t follow

schedules. They don’t care about your dinner reservation. If you don’t want

to lose your mind, you have to remember that your doctor wants to leave the

hospital. Just sometimes they can’t. My sister and I used to page my mother

endlessly to ask when she would be home. Now, I understand that this only

made her irritated and delayed her return. I’m a grown-up now, so I really try

not to call.

Bonus tip: Bring a book or magazine if you are meeting your doctor at a

restaurant. That way you are not that lonely woman waiting at a restaurant,

you are that independent, interesting woman with a full life... waiting at a


4) If it’s really important to you, schedule it for a day off – My mother is famous

for underestimating the amount of time it will take her to do something. She

would say, “I just have to round, I’ll be done by 1:00.” So we would make

plans to go to a movie at 2:30. Of course, 90% of the time, she wouldn’t be

done and we’d be waiting at the theater. The lesson I got from this is that

if something is really important to you, tell the doctor and get it on the

schedule, early.

Bonus tip: Sometimes this doesn’t work, there are always emergencies, but

you shouldn’t stop trying.

5) Be the cruise director – When I was growing up, we went camping. My dad

packed us and organized us and got us out there. We picked my mom up

when she got off work and took her with us. When you’re in the woods,

staying in a tent, you have to interact with each other. Maybe camping

isn’t your thing, but something is. It is really easy to get used to the doctor

being gone and to forget to make it fun when they are home. Don’t wait for

vacation; plan special times as a family.

Bonus tip: You are going to be the one organizing everything, but know that

your doctor will probably come in and mess up your planning. My dad always

complains that my mom repacks everything he packs – don’t stress it... It will

be a funny memory someday.

Those are just a few of the lessons I learned about being a doctor’s wife from being a

doctor’s daughter.


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Survivor Stories: A Different Kind of Survival

Learning about someone's background often helps us know more about who that person is today.  Questions about my husband's background usually begin when someone is intrigued, befuddled, or overwhelmed by his last name:  Phommachanh.  It's really quite simple once you get the hang of it.  "Po" (like the panda); "ma" (like pa's wife); "ch" (as in chair); "ahhn" (just like it looks).  Anyhow, those 11 letters only begin to tell V's somewhat unique story, and how he came to have that name embroidered on a long white coat with the letters "MD" after them.

Once people ask about his last name, I'll add that V is originally from Laos.  Sometimes, people say, "wow, really?", and sometimes they look a little lost, as if they're hoping I'll remind them exactly where Laos is.  Just to make sure we're all on the same page, Laos is in Southeast Asia, and it's the landlocked country nestled among Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia.

Even if most people know where Laos is, many don't know its role in the Vietnam war.  Without getting deep into international politics,  I'll just supply this fact:  from 1964 to 1973, the U.S. dropped the equivalent of "a planeload of bombs every 8 minutes, 24-hours a day, for 9 years--making Laos the most heavily bombed country per capita in history."  If you type in "Laos most heavily bombed..." in your search engine, you can learn more.  Following this catastrophic season, Laos was in chaos and was under Communist rule.

Let's get to where my husband fits in to this story.  Born in 1977 to a humble Lao farmer and his wife, whose family was more urban and more highly educated, V was born in his family's home in the capital city of Vientiane.  His birth certificate is a piece of paper that records the date, but not the time, or length/weight of the baby.  His grandfather signed it to make it official.

By the time V was about 2, his parents and some other family members from his mom's side had made the decision to leave Laos, with the ultimate goal being America.  Because of the politics at the time, leaving had to be secretive.  They purchased passage on a small boat that would cross the Mekong River at night, into Thailand.  Little V stayed quiet, and they crossed safely.  I get goosebumps every time my mother-in-law tells this story, and I've known V for 15 years!

Once in Thailand, V and his family lived in a refugee camp for 18 months.  At one point, a fire ravaged the camp, leaving the meager accomodations in shambles.  V's uncle sent us a picture of the camp after the fire, and it stops me in my tracks.  I look around at our new, large, beautiful home, and think of our own little ones...and then remember just where my husband started his life.  It's some serious perspective.

Christian missionaries helped V's family leave Thailand and settle in Massachusetts.  Southeast Asians in Massachusetts doesn't make a lot of sense to me, but it was a step in the right direction, to be sure.  The family learned English as my father-in-law studied to become a machinist and my mother-in-law worked in various factories.  They shared a home with V's aunts and uncles and cousins.  There wasn't a lot of personal space, I'm sure.

This story is getting perhaps too long already, so I'll fast forward.  V's family moved to St. Petersburg, FL, in 1985, after V's sister was born.  They are still there today.  V's dad owns and operates a small machine shop.  V's mom helps take care of our niece while her parents (V's sister and her husband) work.  They are all doing well.

My husband obviously excelled in school, and knew medicine was calling him, by his teen years.  I think I'll have to write "chapter two" about his path into being a doctor, if there is interest in more of his story. I am still amazed at how our paths came together.  V's family truly could--and still can--"do hard things"!

I am a stay-at-home mom in the Bradenton-Sarasota area of Florida, though with our son in 5th grade and our daughter in pre-K, I do more driving around than staying at home.  My husband is in his 5th year of private practice as an ENT physician.  We like to play outside and host family and friends in our free time.  V and I got married 13 years ago, right before he started medical school.  We like to think we've not just survived, but we have thrived!

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