This Page

has moved to a new address:


Sorry for the inconvenience…

Redirection provided by Blogger to WordPress Migration Service
Lives of Doctor Wives: December 2014

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Survivor Stories: #itgetsbetter

We use the hashtag #itgetsbetter often in our circle of friends, mainly to provide a light at the end of the tunnel for those struggling through med school, residency and fellowship.  But the reality is, there’s a lot about the post-training life that will always remain difficult.  And instead of painting a picture that it’s all rainbows and butterflies when training is over, I’d rather give you some realistic expectations about what #itgetsbetter really means.

Many of our posts would have those families in the training phase think that #itgetsbetter is just about money.  I’m not gonna lie – after scraping the house for change to buy groceries, it’s nice to finally walk into Whole Foods and buy all you need for the week.   But what I have actually learned, in our third year out of training, is that #itgetsbetter is truly a mindset.  And something you have more control over than you might think.

Understand your definition for #itgetsbetter
What does your “better” look like?  Is it more time with your husband at home?  Is it finally affording that dream home?  Is it having a chance to pursue your career, after supporting his for many years?
Whatever the case is, be sure you understand your goals in the “better phase” – and discuss this with your husband.
Life is a balanced scale.  But instead of the two arms of the scale, which teeter to either side, our lives are a multi-armed scale.  Some of the things our husbands balance include marriage, kids, faith, exercise/personal health, patients, career growth, financial goals, sleep/rest, hobbies, friends/social, and the list continues.  The main point is that each of these things takes time and effort – and they can’t all function at 100%.  If a dream house with a big price tag is important to you, then having a husband who is home more than he is at work is likely not a reality.  We have to be honest with ourselves, and our spouse, about what our goals are for the post-training life.  Which leads me to my next step.

Communicate with your husband about your goals for the #itgetsbetter
Are you hoping he is home more?  Than perhaps that medical director position isn’t a good idea.  Are you hoping to pay off your loans quickly, than maybe living near family in a more desirable area is not as cost-effective as the huge bonus package from that rural hospital.  Many factors can go into a future “better” but they can’t all be achieved simultaneously.  If your goals are aligned with your spouse, or at least a compromise can be achieved, then you will be able to share in the same dream that will keep you pushing through.

Remind yourself of the #itgetsbetter goals on those difficult days
There are days when you’ll hate the call schedule, or you’ll wish he was around for a particular holiday, or you’ll cry as the credit card reaches it limit.  But remember that if you can be flexible to some constraints, your #itgetsbetter is within reach.  And sometimes smaller #itgetsbetter victories occur.  I can’t even count how many times, when things felt like they couldn’t get any worse, that an opportunity, or some other angel, helped us through a situation.  Sometimes it’s a matter of perspective and remembering that “this too shall pass”.

Celebrate when #itgetsbetter along the way
If we had to wait for the end of fellowship to finally reap any of the rewards of medicine, we would never get through it.  The reality is, that we have little moments of #itgetsbetter throughout the process.

Intern year is difficult, but by that second year they feel more comfortable as a physician = #itgetsbetter. 

He may never have off Christmas day as a resident, but by the third or fourth year your family will finally understand that reality and stop giving you guilt trips = #itgetsbetter.

It’s a financial and emotional strain, but sometimes an angel – be it an in-law, an LDW sister, or an attending – can help out in ways you didn’t expect.  And the gratitude will be so appreciated it will make you cry. = #itgetsbetter

Ultimately, you will be a stronger person and more appreciative of your #itgetsbetter when the time finally comes.  My holiday wish is that you all get to experience an #itgetsbetter moment this season.  Look around and you’ll find it – ‘cause they might already be around you.

Labels: ,

Monday, December 22, 2014

Celebrating Christmas

A confession: I've been a wee bit Scrooge-like this holiday season. While we are ever so grateful that Michael is in a residency that we both like quite a lot, considering that it is still a surgical residency, I feel compelled to bah humbug a bit about spending our first Christmas in a new city not only without our extended family, but also without our own little family of four all together. Michael, it turns out, will be spending the twenty-fifth day in December at the hospital.

After Grinching about for the better part of a week, I had this thought: What are we celebrating, anyway? We know from our friends in Whoville that it's not about ribbons or boxes or bags, or trees, lights, or reindeer-shaped cookies. It's not even about the music, although you guys, Pandora's been locked on the Mannheim Steamroller station since before the last trick-or-treater left our neighborhood.

Christmas, then, is about family, a special family, that winked into existence as all families do with the birth of an extraordinary baby. Christmas celebrates that child who grew up to be Christ. Who never turned away the sick or lonely, and especially not the children, not when He was tired or it was inconvenient, and probably He went out helping people on Yom Kippur and Hannukah, even when His ever-graceful mom just wanted to have a sit-down meal with the whole family together.

And if that's how He whose birth we celebrate spent His time, how can I begrudge Michael's residency giving him the opportunity to pay tribute to Christ by tending to the sick and showing compassion to those who would surely also rather be home with their families?

So here's our Christmas: we will celebrate on the twenty-fourth or twenty-sixth with the music and the food and the presents and the children festooned with ribbons and bows. And on Christmas, we will celebrate Christ.


Friday, December 5, 2014

When it rains it pours

by: Jennnifer Engorn

We've all heard the phrase “When it rains it pours,” and the same could certainly be applied to snow. In fact, during my husband's fourth year of Medical School, living in the mountains of Virginia, we experienced a blizzard of epic proportions- both literally and figuratively.

My husband, I believe, was made to be a surgeon. Not just because of his bluntness or his ever-so-logical way of viewing situations. Not just because of his dexterity or physical and mental stamina. My husband was made to be a surgeon because of his hard-working nature, his teamwork mentality, his perseverance, his ability to think quickly. He has adaptability, sound judgment, ethics, and incredible compassion. Most of all, my husband was made to be a surgeon because that is what he wanted, hoped for, worked for and invested his life in. He is a man that puts his heart and soul into everything he does, and refuses to give any less than 110%. Orthopedic Surgery was no different.

Jeff spent all of his Medical School career preparing himself for Orthopedic Surgery residency. With whatever free time he had, he shadowed Orthopedic Surgeons- on days off, weekends, holidays, birthdays- you name it. He spent his entire research month of school waking up at 3 a.m., so that he could commute for an hour and a half in one direction, just to shadow an Orthopod in the area. I paint this picture not only to rave about my husband, but also to show how much he had invested and how much he had on the line. The bigger the risk, the bigger the reward...or the loss when things don't go as planned.

Fourth year of Medical School started off with Jeff taking Step II of his boards and leaving the following day for his first of five month-long audition rotations. This left me with one friend within about a hundred mile radius, and five hours from any family. Needless to say, this was a time with many stresses. Little did my naïve mind know, the struggles were only beginning.

About a week after Jeff left for his first audition rotation in Tennessee, his grandmother- to whom we were extremely close- had a massive heart attack on her way to the casino with a friend. Yes, the casino- she was in remarkable shape- and this came as a huge shock. With Jeff working about a hundred hours a week and barely able to have a phone conversation, this left him in a helpless position and me as the sole representative for our tiny family. I went to Baltimore, where our families were, to visit his grandmother in the hospital and then in Hospice. During this time, Jeff's mother- who is also one of my very best friends, lost her best friend of twenty years to Cancer. Shortly thereafter, Jeff's grandmother also passed away. My heart was so heavy with grief, with sadness, and with loneliness for my husband. Jeff came home on a Friday night after his fourth week in Tennessee, we had the funeral for his grandmother on Sunday, and a few hours later he left for his next rotation in Ohio.

The weeks came and went, barely seeing Jeff for a few days per month- if that. We celebrated our first anniversary with a friend's wedding the night before- where we left the New York wedding at 2 a.m. so    that Jeff could work an early shift in NJ. I then proceeded to continue the drive alone to Baltimore, where I spent our actual anniversary with my family. That was okay, though, because I was hoping it would all pay off on February 10- Match Day. On February 10, Jeff received an email stating that he did not match, despite having five interviews- a comfortable number for D.O. Orthopedics. We spent the rest of the day, and week, calling programs for General Surgery and Emergency Medicine. Jeff got phone calls from Internal Medicine and Family Medicine programs that were also trying to recruit. He received interview offers but, because he had not yet gotten his results from his COMLEX PE, no program could take him. On the night of Wednesday February 12, I called my mom repeatedly, as we had been staying in close contact and I had not heard from her all day. I was finally able to reach her on her cell phone at 11 p.m. when she told me that she was at the hospital. The HOSPITAL?! She proceeded to explain that my grandmother, who was an active, driving, still-working woman suddenly could not get herself out of the bathroom earlier in the day. They ran numerous tests and discovered that she had a brain tumor and would need immediate surgery. I was stunned. Additionally, the forecast was calling for a huge snow storm, making a visit to Baltimore impossible for the foreseeable future. By Friday, Jeff had signed a contract for a Transitional Rotating Internship position in NJ, and my grandmother had her brain surgery scheduled. We were all still in shock from the week's events, and we were snowed in, with over a foot of snow, in our townhouse with our two dogs in Southwest Virginia.

The weeks and months to follow were depressing. Jeff and I moved to New Jersey and started to build a life there, and my grandmother made leaps and bounds in her miraculous recovery. She began to walk again- first with assistance, then on her own, and soon it became her new favorite activity. A few weeks into his TRI position, Jeff noticed a new Orthopedic program listed on the AOA website. He called and emailed them immediately and heard nothing back. Then, about a week later, he was contacted about his inquiry and they asked that he send his CV, ERAS application, Letters of Recommendation, etc. immediately. Within two days of doing so, he was contacted by the program director personally, who asked for the phone numbers of Attending physicians that he could speak to on Jeff's behalf. Granted this was a Saturday and time was more of the essence than ever before. Jeff, fortunately, had built exceptional relationships with many doctors over the past few years, and he found several in his cell phone that he could have the program director contact. We waited on pins and needles for any feedback or updates.

Early the next morning- on the one-month anniversary of moving to NJ, Jeff received a phone call from the Orthopedic Surgery program director who offered Jeff a first-year position, to begin immediately, at his new program in Miami. We were shocked, thrilled, and emotional. This truly felt like a miracle. The past six months had been a roller-coaster of emotions, and we were finally able to see the positive experiences. Now, here we are, about 3 months after he got his Orthopedic residency offer, and my husband is happier than ever. Although intern year has its own set of time commitments and demands, Jeff is happy and eager to handle them. My grandmother, is a walking, talking and now driving miracle, as well. I feel so blessed to have my loved ones so happy and healthy, for which I am thankful every single day. We now live in Miami, with Jeff in his first year of Orthopedic Surgery residency, an the weather has yet to be lower than 80 degrees. Although the blizzard of life that occurred in February will never leave our minds, we are eternally grateful for all of our gifts, and we see no snow-tangible or metaphoric, in our forecast.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Survivor Stories: The Next Chapter in A Different Kind of Survivor Story

Last month, I wrote about my husband's background, and how that began his journey towards a career in medicine.  He and his parents, along with some of his mom's siblings and their families, were refugees from Laos in the early 1980's.  It was a risky choice, to say the least, crossing a river at night with toddlers aboard, hoping to reach Thailand safely.  They spent 18 months in a refugee camp in Thailand before American missionaries helped them settle and start anew in Massachusetts.

When I've asked V about how early he knew he wanted to go into medicine, he tells me it was in his teen years.  Although stereotypical Asians excel in school and pursue professional careers after attending college, the numbers are somewhat different within his culture.  Many teens from his country, from his generation, got into gang culture and never went too far from home--geographically or ideologically.  V embraced Western culture, and his parents always had extremely high expectations for him.  It was understood that he should do well in school and live up to his potential.   I think they always knew he was capable of great things.

V did excel in school, enough so to have his choice of universities and scholarships.  Here is where he and his family took another huge leap of faith:  V decided to attend a private university three states away from his family.  Within their social circles, made up primarily of family and friends from their homeland, V and his parents found themselves to be rather odd.  First, V was going out of state, for college.  Second, he seemed to have no intention of working in his dad's small business and/or taking on ownership of it someday.  Third, his parents did not expect him to hold a job during college; they wanted him to focus on his pre-med studies.  Fourth, they assisted him financially because they could and they wanted to.

His parents continued to believe in him and support him after college, when he wanted to work in a biology lab on campus until he was absolutely certain that medicine was what he wanted to pursue.  Around the same time, he asked a fellow alumnus, also working on campus, on a date.  Within the next two years, he knew that he wanted to apply to medical school, and he also knew he wanted to marry that young lady...me.

I was on a walk through campus, passing the building in which V took his MCAT.  I was in his living room when he opened his acceptance letter to his top choice of med school.  That was around the time he told his parents he wanted to marry me.  His family hasn't had the best experiences with their men marrying American women, so although they were thoroughly cordial to me, they were open with him about their concerns.  "She'll be a distraction...she'll get pregnant and you'll drop out of school..."  I have to applaud my husband for his defense of me and our relationship.  We got married amongst great joy and hope, and both sides of the family, a month before med school started.  That was 13 years ago.

Even as I write this, I'm realizing how many risks V and his family have taken to get to where they are now.  There is more to his story, which I can add to if there continues to be interest.

My husband's story captivates me because of the fascinating results that have come from his family's decisions to take risks.  His story encourages me because lately he has been saying that he feels like there is more to his calling, yet to be seen...

I am married to an ENT physician, and together we have two children, ages 9 and 5.  We live in Florida and enjoy playing outside together, and gathering both sides of our family in our home for good food and fun.  

Labels: , , , ,