Everyone knows that medical school and residency are stressful for young physicians. The AMA Alliance knows that the training years can be just as challenging for the physician's spouse. Our new blog offers resources to provide specific support for partners of physicians in training, as well as assistance in finding an Alliance in your area.

We know that support for the family of medicine is most comforting when it is provided by the family of medicine.

To learn more about the Young Member Connection please view our first blog entry here.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thanksgiving Message

To all our Alliance friends,

During this time of thanksgiving and reflection, I would like to let you know how much you are appreciated and treasured. Your attention for others: Alliance members, your families and the family of medicine is exemplarily and generous. You have shared your talents, expertise and experience for the benefit of others. I am privileged to be a part of such an amazing group of individuals.

I hope you all enjoyed a Happy Thanksgiving and know that your friends consider you as one of their blessings.


Marilyn Kezirian

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Funding RPS/MSS Groups

One of the biggest concerns with RPS and MSS groups is HOW to fund the group. Of course you want a fun and exciting group with parties to celebrate special occasions, fun activities and get-togethers for members, etc. etc., but you also need to keep membership dues down to encourage participation and not turn people off because of the cost.

Here are some of the ideas my group came up with to support our group. First of all, the group found two main sponsors. The sponsors gave the group a set amount of funds each year as well as helping with our yearly resident-mailings. For the sponsors, the group agreed to only allow the sponsors to advertise for the group within their fields. We also placed an advertisement for our sponsors on the main page of our Web page. Along with these sponsors, if there was a particular party we wanted to have we would occasionally find a sponsor for that party. They would cover the costs of food and we would allow them to hand out papers and advertise at the party.

So, how to find sponsors? This was actually very easy for our group to do. Once businesses in the community saw that we were looking for sponsors, they were very excited to sign-up. It is definitely a win-win when working with these sponsors, and they realize that!

A huge amount of our yearly budget was raised by sending out incoming-resident packets. Within this packet, we include advertisements for local businesses. We charge each business a set fee and they are allowed to include a one-page advertisement. As well as business advertisements, we also include housing information. Anyone who is selling or renting a house they believe would be appropriate for an incoming-resident can include a flyer for their home at a set price. This has been a great way for our group to inform incoming-residents about local businesses and potential houses as well as raise a large amount of money for our group’s budget.

As you can see, there are definitely ways to subsidize your RPS or MSS group budget. Don't be afraid to contact local businesses and let them know what you are looking for. They will love the advertisement and you will be able to keep your membership fees down.

Any other ideas on how to fund RPS/MSS groups?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Medical Students Experience Health System's Ills

During a summer program providing primary care in rural and underserved areas, medical students from the University of Washington School of Medicine discovered a host of problems in the nation's primary care system. A recent New York Times article describes their experiences.

The Times interviewed one student who shadowed a pediatrician who saw as many as 45 patients each day, and was able to spend only five minutes with each patient. Another worked in a community health center where four out of five patients had no health insurance. Many of the students concluded that primary care, which can involve working long, unsatisfying hours and often makes it difficult to raise a family and pay off medical school debt, was not for them.

Read more.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Free registration for the AMA Alliance Leadership Development Conference

The AMA Alliance Leadership Development Conference (LDC), to be held October 4-6, 2009, at the Chicago Marriott Downtown Hotel, is a two-and-a-half day networking and team-building opportunity for all Alliance members to ensure our voice in support of medical families.

Best of all, registration is free for Medical Students, Medical Student Spouses, Resident Physicians, and Resident Physician Spouses who are current members of the AMA Alliance. Don't miss this great opportunity to boost your leadership skills and meet other physician families from across the nation!

See what we're offering and register for the meeting at http://www.amaalliance.org/site/epage/64805_625.htm

Friday, August 21, 2009

Take a FIRST step in learning about student debt

Need help navigating the complexities of student debt? The Financial Information, Resources, Services, and Tools (FIRST) resource, developed by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) in collaboration with the medical school financial aid community and the Organization of Student Representatives, can assist you.

FIRST offers a full range of information for applicants, medical school students, residents, advisors and financial aid officers. The goal of the resource is to help medical school borrowers expand their financial literacy, make smart decisions about student loans and manage their student debt wisely.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Resource for Non-Clinical Jobs

If you or the physician in your life is considering a non-clinical healthcare career, there are a number of options that don't involve patient care or long hours. Nonclinicaljobs.com, a blog for physicians and healthcare professionals who want to learn about nonclinical medical opportunities, is a helpful resource. In addition to information on nonclinical healthcare jobs, the blog covers relevant issues such as work/life balance, job-hunting tips, part-time work versus non-clinical work, establishing an online presence, retooling your resume and much more.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Maintaining A Sense of Self during Residency

According to a study from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, many young doctors feel that their medical training is so important that they are willing to sacrifice their identity and personal life in order to learn how to care for patients. However, "when the imbalance persists for longer than initially expected, professional growth is not enough to sustain most young doctors. " In this New York Times article, one physician discusses how she learned to find time for herself.

How do you and your spouse find a balance between medical training and personal/family life? Please share your experiences in the comments.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Primary Care Physician Shortage

According to an article in the Washington Post, the increasing shortage of primary care physicians is due to lower salaries for these physicians, the desire for more flexible schedules, lower prestige, and doctors' desire for greater control over their lifestyle. Have these issues affected the career path of the physician in your family? What do you think it would take to attract more young physicians to primary care?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Medical Moving

If you are a medical family (which you most likely are reading this blog!) you probably have or will move several times throughout the course of the medical training.

Early summer is always a tough time of year for me. If we personally were not moving, we were saying good-bye to many friends that were. This year my husband is finishing up his last year of training and we are moving for him to start his official job. Over the past few days I've been trying to come up with something encouraging and inspiring to write about moving. How to plan. What to prepare for. How to adjust to a new community. The best ways to help your children adjust to all of the changes.

Basically, all of the difficult parts of packing up your life in one location and moving on to the next. Although we have moved multiple times over my husband's training I certainly don't have all of the answers. So, in my search for answers to pass on I have read some great blogs that address these issues head on and I wanted to post them for you all! They certainly have been helpful and encouraging to me.

The blog entries can be found here:

Lives of Doctor Wives - Survivor Saturdays - Moving

The Doctors Wife - Medical Mondays: Moving

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Life After Match Day

On a bitterly cold January night I sat anxiously next to my telephone waiting on the call that would determine the next six years of our lives. It was call telling me where Libby had matched in Urologic Surgery. My now wife, Libby, was perched in front of her computer nervously clicking the refresh button on her email awaiting the response. Shortly after midnight, she called and said that she had matched in Omaha. My immediate response was complete shock as we were planning on staying in Kansas City and had made no plans to move anywhere, especially not to Omaha. In fact, we didn’t even know anyone in Omaha, but we were going and had to make it work. The following is a synopsis about our initial experiences as a newly married couple who were married, moved to a brand new city, and began a new life. These are simply some things that I wish someone had told me before we embarked on the insanity known as residency.

As the spouse of an intern, you have made a commitment that no one except another resident’s spouse will understand. You have committed yourself and your marriage to the care and well being of the local community’s indigent population. You have committed yourself to be there and to take care of your spouse in health, but mostly sickness. The best assumption that I ever made is that I am all that I have and must make it work for the family. Your spouse is going to live at the hospital and thus, will not be home to do many of the things that a “normal” spouse could do. This includes everything from banking, normal daily chores (i.e. cooking/laundry), and housing.

In the beginning, the best decision we made was renting when we first moved to Omaha. We rented a nice 900 sq ft. townhouse that was the perfect size for a new couple who had just relocated. The only drawback was that the nice, new townhouse was 25 minutes away from the hospital. The travel time, however, could easily be doubled during the winter with the weather and traffic accidents. We estimated that she would easily be able to save ten hours of driving per week if we only lived closer to the hospital which prompted me to begin looking for a house (Remember “home call” does not count towards the eighty-hour work week and is becoming more popular).

We found a colonial home that needed some attention and I felt up for the job. For three solid months of construction during the coldest winter in recent Nebraskan memory, I along with numerous craftsmen renovated our home. This was not a good idea. This was an unnecessary stress and strain that could have been avoided. If you are looking at a house, buy one that has either been renovated, is new or does not require extensive renovation. This way, you can avoid the terror that we experienced during January 2008.

During the winter of 2008, Libby was on her Pediatric Surgery rotation and was dealing with the N.I.C.U., which was incredibly taxing on her emotionally. I was not able to be there for her when she needed me at that time because I was working at the house when she was not at the hospital. She was not able to be at the house because it was disaster with electricians, plumbers, carpenters and floor refinishers all there at the same time. Please remember that your spouse is giving everything that they have at work and may not be able to contribute much to you when they get home. It will be you who will be responsible for maintaining a “normal” life at home.

It’s your responsibility to maintain a normal sense of life at home and have found this to be extremely important. We found that some of the best times that we have had in Omaha have been when we have done the mundane such as going on a picnic, going to the symphony or simply going on a hike in a state park. Omaha has a plethora of parks, thus picnics and walks with our dog, Daisy, have become a favorite past time. Don’t forget about local museums and the symphony either. Libby found that the Omaha Symphony has tickets for $19.00 each! While we don’t go often, an evening at the symphony is a welcomed two hours of serenity. Also, look into the possibility of a state park pass. An annual pass for the Nebraska State Park system is $20. We typically get out on Saturday mornings and go for short hikes. It’s amazing how a walk in the woods does wonders for the psyche.

Finally, never give up on your spouse because they need you. They are undertaking a truly incredible mental, physical endeavor and may not be able to help with the everyday challenges. They need you to supply a firm foundation on which to stand during these trying years. There will be many trial and tribulations but, the light is still burning brightly at the end of the tunnel. If it ever gets to be too much then, simply reach out. Don’t forget the Alliance is here for you and you are not alone! There are hundreds of other people who are either going through or have gone through exactly the same conditions as you are experiencing. The Alliance is an incredible group of people and is always here. The Alliance is an amazing group of people with incredible advice and insight into the residency years. However, the most inspiring advice came from Chief Resident who said, “they (the hospital) can’t stop the clock”. This will end eventually and for us we only have four years and twenty eight days to go!

Andrew Maddox

If you would like to share your story, please email it to mailto:Ziegler@ama-assn.org

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Iowa Alliance Wins Award for Work With Young Members

Membership Development Project Awards
Best Collaborative Project Entry

Project Summary
The overall goal of the project was to work collaboratively with the State Medical Society to produce programming designed to provide resources relating to variables encountered by Medical Students, Resident Physicians and their spouses while making medical career choices.

Description of Goals

The primary goal of the project was to connect the MS/RP and their spouses with the State Medical Society and Alliance while providing valuable information regarding practice and life decisions. The Alliance Board strongly feels that connection with this segment of medicine is the lifeblood of the future of Medical Societies and Alliances nationwide. Through this program, a bond is created that has multiple benefits for our young physicians and their spouses as well as organized medicine and its adjunct organizations.

Panel discussions were comprised of physicians in various practices, a Medical Society Executive and the Alliance President or President Elect. Medical Students and their spouses spent time listening to the panel describe facets of their medical practices and home life in that branch of medicine. The information was rounded out by input from the Medical Society and Alliance individual that gave an overview of the benefits of membership in these groups.

The web resources offered vignettes involving the benefits of medical practice in our state, types of practice settings and governance, employment agreements and contracts, how to review financial reports, legal aspects of joining and leaving a practice, what to expect in the interview process from the perspective of the physician and the spouse, and possible red flags during the interview process.

Impact of Project

The level of collaboration between the State Medical Society and State Alliance was very high for this project and critical to its success. Recognition of the abilities of Alliance members by Medical Society staff was a very welcome benefit. While this recognition is not new, the sense of partnership and mutual respect that came about was serendipitous indeed. Their ability to see the Alliance as a partner and a resource will perpetuate for many years.

The connection with our young physicians was the most obvious positive outcome of this project. The panel discussions were interactive and very personal. The presence of a Medical Society executive and Alliance officer on the panels provided medical students and their spouses with concrete interactions that put a face to both of our groups. Working with the RPS/MSS spouse groups for publicity and assistance with babysitting also provided opportunities for Alliance membership to connect with our young physician families. Our goal to connect with young members also resulted in a 50% increase in RPS/MSS/MS Alliance membership in the state, as well as the first ever collaborative medical student/resident spouse/medical society and alliance health project in a county with the largest student/resident population. The medical society also recorded an increase in RP and MS memberships this year statewide with increases of 2% and 42% respectively.

Another very positive outcome is the information that medical students and spouses took away from the panel discussions that were reflected in feedback provided after the second panel discussion. (Feedback was not requested after the first panel.) Providing an opportunity to ask questions of practicing physicians in a relaxed environment is a unique experience that many medical students and their spouses don’t encounter. The program was so popular that it was repeated at the recent state annual meeting at the request of the medical student section.

Providing a format for solid and trustworthy information via the web-based downloadable mp3 files for resident physicians and their spouses allows the Alliance and Medical Society to support and assist these young people in ways that creates immeasurable good will. Taking the time to educate our young physicians on matters that they will encounter as they transition to practicing physicians and medical families gives them a “leg up” on the many variables they need to consider.

The challenges of being in a physician family are most certainly recognized by other physician families and those that work to support and strengthen the practice of medicine. Through this collaborative effort, many of those challenges were addressed.

For information on how the AMA Alliance can assist you in working with young members, contact Julie Ziegler

Monday, April 27, 2009

Avoiding the Pitfalls of Medical Marriage

A recent article in AMA Alliance Today explores common pitfalls in medical marriages and how to avoid them. Click here to read the article.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Book Review: Doctors Cry Too by Frank H. Boehm, M.D.

Hi all: I apologize for not posting last week's book review on this site. To keep you up to date, here is this week's review.


Frank H. Boehm is an obstetrician/gynecologist who writes a twice monthly op-ed in the Tennessean newspaper, entitled Healing Words, about the life lessons he has experienced as a doctor. His articles became so popular he decided to write a book that is a compilation of his favorite and most popular pieces. The result was the book Doctors Cry Too.

Organization. The format of the book and Boehm’s straightforward, simple language makes Doctors Cry Too a very pleasant and easy read. The book is organized into various topics, including medicine and religion, the end of life, and personal stories. Within each topic there are a number of essays, each of which spans an average of 2 pages in length.

Its easy format and short stories allow you to choose whether you want to read the book cover to cover (which I actually did in the span of 2 nights) or read an essay at your leisure. The stories don’t build upon each other so you can read the essays out of order.

Topic. In Boehm's words, his book consists of "stories that deal with the emotional and personal issues surrounding health care and physicians." His book is best described as a Chicken Soup for the Soul written by an obstetrician. For that reason, I recommend this book to obstetricians and to mothers. I recommend this book to mothers as opposed to parents in general because of the personal experiences a mother goes through during pregnancy.

Pros and Cons. It was refreshingly nice to read Bohem’s personal stories about his children. It is extremely evident that he loves his children dearly and he has a happy marriage with his wife Julie. This is another reason the book is like Chicken Soup for the Soul—you get a glimpse into the mind (and heart) of a compassionate, loving father and husband who cares deeply for his family and his patients. You feel good to reading such nice thoughts from an accomplished physician. The book also gave me a sense of hope because Bohem has achieved a wonderful balance between personal and professional life that many physicians strive to achieve. It makes me feel like it can be done.

However, I must admit that I was disappointed with Bohem’s inability to delve deeper into controversial issues. For example, at one point he comments on a woman who died because of an illegal, inadequately performed abortion before Roe v. Wade was decided. He focuses on the woman’s death and its impact on him, but he briefly mentions the need for a change in the law so that deaths like this would not happen. Of course, abortion is an extremely controversial issue and one that Bohem couldn’t quickly delve into. Also, the purpose of his story is to demonstrate the impact this patient had on his life. But I am one who is always interested in delving into the difficult stuff and somehow making sense of conflict. For that reason I sometimes felt the book was a bit superficial.

That being said, the book certainly accomplishes its underlying goal. It gives a reader a glimpse into the heart of a loving, caring physician. It helps patients see that doctors, who may seem like they don’t care, do in fact cry because of the compassion they feel for their patients.

Photo from Dr. Boehm's website.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Why study medicine?

An article from Student Doctor Network (SDN) explores the question of why pre-medical students decide to pursue medicine. A survey conducted by SDN reveals that "89% listed either a desire to help others, a genuine interest in the sciences, or personal exposure to medicine as the impetus for their decision" rather than financial gain. Click here to read the article.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Medical Students & Residents - Transitioning to Practice

Any transition, be it from college to the work world, or the common transitioning between jobs, can be difficult. But most transitions happen fairly quickly, in a matter of a couple months, compared to that of the medical transition. Transitioning in the medical profession is a way of life, whether it be from student to internship, internship to residency, or residency into a fellowship, specialty or private practice. The family of medicine is always there to support their physicians in training and make the transitions as smooth as possible.

To read the rest of this article, click on the "Transitioning to Practice" title link.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Medical Marriage

I love Thursday nights. And I love Thursday nights even more since the invention of the DVR. We finish all the tucking and praying and reading and singing and last-minute drinks of water, and we field all of the ingenious stalling techniques and finally go downstairs around 8:30. Grey’s Anatomy is already a ½ hour in, which means with a DVR, we can start watching it from the beginning and fast forward through the commercials.

I don’t know if you’ve ever watched a medical drama with an actual physician, but in order to do so, you must establish rules.

Rule #1: No talking.

Michael often comments, “That wouldn’t really happen…” or “Uh, notsomuch…” while I’m trying to hear Bailey’s witty comeback or George’s self-deprecating whine. But - again - thanks to the DVR, we can rewind. Then, of course, we re-establish Rule #1. Let’s just happily suspend reality and watch the stinkin’ show. Please.

I loved last week’s episode. McDreamy and Dark&Twisty finally get engaged. But here’s what I loved the most: he was able to get back on his feet and be who he is meant to be simply because she had faith in him to do it.

I’ve stumbled across several blogs this week written by wives of physicians – mostly medical students and residents. On one hand, I love reading their stories and so appreciate their sharing the struggles they have. On the other hand, my stomach turns because I have been there, and I know how excruciating it can be.

I’ve thought a lot this week about what I have learned over the last thirteen years as a medical spouse. We married at the end of Michael’s Christmas break during his first year of medical school. Had the wedding on Friday night, and he was back in class on Tuesday morning. Those two crazy kids had no clue what they were getting into.

What have I learned? Well, first let me say that I’m still learning and coping and adjusting. Each year brings new challenges to his career and to our family, and finding the delicate balance between the two is a constant challenge. The good news for us and for others in a medical marriage, particularly those like us who got in at the beginning, is that it does get better. SO much better! If your marriage can survive med school and internship and residency and fellowship, then the rest will seem so easy in comparison. You will have survived the worst.

But if I could go back and talk to that insanely na├»ve 22 year old bride, here’s what I would tell her:

Hope for the best, expect the worst. This was my mantra through residency. It’s all about expectations. If he is on-call, expect him to be gone all night. Expect to eat dinner alone, to pick up the kids from practice, to put them all to bed by yourself, to clean up the kitchen by yourself, to spend the evening with a book or the DVR instead of your husband. If he’s not called in, celebrate and move through the evening/weekend with him. But his being with you should always be Plan B. It may sound cynical, but it is survival.

Take the small amounts of time you have and focus solely on each other. Some days, this may consist of a single phone call in between surgical cases. Even if that is all you get, be all there. Listen. Communicate. Laugh. Say “I love you.” If you get more than that, be thankful, and be all there. Make the most of what you have.

Make friends. This can be a tricky one, but I cannot give it enough weight. You absolutely must have friends who are also medical spouses. No one else in the world is going to completely understand what you are going through – not even your own family. That kind of support breathes life and sustains you like nothing else.

I met my best friend in the world during residency training. Both of our husbands were ophthalmology residents, and our kids were born within months of each other; they too became the best of friends. Neither of us had family within 800 miles, so we were family to each other for three years. We live on opposite ends of the country now (which we all hate), but we are still as close to each other as we were during residency, and every summer we take a family vacation together. No one else understands my life like she does. Which leads me to the second point about friends:

Be careful to whom you complain. As the wife of an ophthalmologist, I can’t complain about my life to the wife of a general surgeon. At the same time, it’s going to be a little difficult for me to empathize with the wife of a dermatologist (I probably could, but I haven’t had to yet. I’m just speculating.) Along the same vein, I have to be careful about what I say to my non-medical friends. During Michael’s first year of medical school, I was talking to my good friend from high school and whining about how Michael was gone all the time (oh, my word – really? I had no clue!), and she was genuinely worried about us. She thought we were on the verge of divorce. “Oh, no,” I assured her, “this is just what we do.” Again, no one else is going to understand your life like another medical spouse, particularly one in the same field of specialization.

Non-medical friends and family are going to make assumptions about your life. Even during training when your life is the most stressful and your bank account is the most depleted, other people are going to assume that because your husband has “Dr.” in front of his name, your life must be a cake walk. Many times while Michael was in training, I found myself having to explain the entire training process to our non-medical friends and defining words like STEP I, Match Day, internship, boards, and even residency. I remember one instance during medical school explaining to a friend that no, he is not able to work and go to school at the same time.

Now that Michael finished training and is now in practice, we still find ourselves defending our life and battling assumptions. On more than one occasion, I’ve overheard husbands tell their wives (who are usually wanting to buy x, y or z), “I’m not Michael Hunt. I’m not a doctor.” – as if we don’t have a care in the world about our finances. Believe it or not, we still get to the end of the month and wonder where it all went. (And don’t even get me started on taxes and malpractice insurance and disability and the debt that doctors take on during their training while their friends are out making a healthy salary.) It’s not that simple. So you have to grow a thick skin and learn to ignore it. You know what is true, and what other people wrongly assume about your life doesn’t matter. (I keep telling myself that – I’ll let you know when it sinks in.) My wise old aunt gave me this sage advice: “What other people think about you is none of your business.” Just remember that these assumptions are born out of ignorance – I don’t say that spitefully, but truthfully. The non-medical world has no clue how it all works. We know only because we are submersed in it.

Take care of yourself. Whether you work full-time during your husband’s training or stay home raising your kids (or some combination of both), you have to be careful not to lose yourself as “Dr. ____’s wife.” A good friend of mine from residency advised not to put your own gifts and talents aside, but to work with your husband and find a way “for both people to fit into the marriage so that one person isn't sucking up all in the air in the room. We, too, need to breathe.” During training, this is extremely difficult. Your life is revolving around your husband and his career. You probably left your family, friends, and job to move somewhere you never thought you would live (after matching, we said, “you just don’t grow up thinking ‘someday I’m going to move to Iowa!’”), and once you’re there, you are alone. Your time together revolves around his work schedule, you have no money to pursue your own dreams, and if you have kids, you spend much of your time caring for them alone. Somehow, in the midst of all that, you need to nurture your own spirit and do the things you love to do. Take care of the person your husband first fell in love with. Finding that balance during training is complicated, and it will look different for each one of us, but talk with your husband and find a way to make it happen. If you have kids, I would highly recommend finding room in your meager budget for a Parents Day Out program or preschool. If that’s not possible, work out a kid-swap with a fellow doctor’s wife so you can each have time to yourselves. Either way, the break from your kids will feed your soul and allow you a little time to take care of yourself.

Respect. I’ve saved the most important one for last. This is HUGE. My lack of respect for my husband and his career has shredded our marriage on more than one occasion, but particularly during his first year of residency. We went into our marriage with the conviction that divorce would never, ever be an option – but let me tell you, if it were, we would have gone there. It was that bad, and it was (mostly) my fault.

Let me again assure you that I am not at all devaluing us as women and wives. Each of us has gifts and contributions that are essential. We are each uniquely gifted to bring hope and healing to the world, and we should do so with every opportunity we are given.

Having said that, let’s talk about our physician husbands, particularly those in training. As we are all aware (but probably not to the full extent), they are under incredible pressure. The career they have chosen places someone’s life and health in their often incapable hands. If they screw up, somebody else’s very life is altered. That is a huge burden for anyone to bear. Medical training is rightfully brutal because of the magnitude of this burden they are choosing to take on. During training, our husbands are grilled, yelled at, and belittled. They are expected to know their stuff, which is why they work for 14 hours a day and then come home (if they come home) and study for another 2-3 hours. If they don’t know their stuff, they will suffer, and their patients will suffer. Once they have completed training and go into practice, they aren’t subjected to the yelling and criticism (at least by their attendings - some patients and their families aren’t always so gracious), but the pressure only intensifies.

This puts us, as their wives, in a precarious yet very powerful position. We love them. We value our marriages. We want to spend time with them. But they have chosen a very demanding career that requires more time and energy than they have, and we hold the power to make them better.

Which brings us back to McDreamy and Dark&Twisty. He could be the surgeon he needed to be because the one woman he loves the most has empowered him to be so. We, as wives, need to believe in our husbands. We need to be understanding – even when we don’t like it – of their long hours and limited family time. We need to give them a safe place to come home to after being run through the garbage disposal all day. They need to hear, “Thank you for working so hard for our family” and “You are going to be an incredible (doctor/specialist).” They need to hear, “I am so proud of you.” They need to know that they are heroes at home, even if they are peons at the hospital. They are working their butts off in order to learn how to save someone’s life. They need – and deserve – our respect.*

Yes, we have every right to complain about not seeing them and being a “single” parent. Yes, their careers put an extra burden on us as their wives. But for the sake of our marriages and our own happiness, we must learn to put aside our “rights.” We must lovingly and effectively communicate our frustrations while still affirming their value and appreciating what they do and how hard they work.

Medical marriages are extraordinarily difficult, and although far from “normal,” this life is all we know. I have learned in thirteen years of medical marriage that you can, in fact, have a loving, fulfilling, vibrant marriage. It takes more work and tears and effort than you ever thought you were capable of, and it never will be easy. But remind yourself of this: you are an amazing, strong, gifted woman, and your husband could never be the physician that he is and will become without you.


*Love and Respect, by Dr. Emerson Eggrichs, is a great resource for learning ways to show our husbands respect and how they will in turn respond lovingly.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Won't You Join Us?

Now that you’ve been matched to your residency program, you are invited to also match your family to your new community. The AMA Alliance is the only nationwide physician spouse health advocacy network and the largest volunteer arm of the AMA.

As you both learn ways to survive the tough medical training years and to balance family and residency, it helps to have a strong network that includes others in your situation. As a physician spouse who understands and cares about the family of medicine in this country, I highly recommend adding the AMA Alliance to your support network. Your $10 dues will connect you to a network of physician spouses who understand the joys and struggles of a medical family. Please click on this link to join today. http://www.amaalliance.org/site/epage/40263_625.htm

Kathy Lariviere,

AMA Alliance Secretary


Thursday, March 26, 2009

RPS/MSS Group SPOTLIGHT - Medical Partners, Iowa City, IA

Each month on our Physicians In Training blog we are going to be spotlighting one RPS/MSS group. This will be a good way to inform everyone how other groups around the country are structured. Also, this will be an informative source for those of you considering joining a group. Please let us know if you have any specific questions you would like answered about these featured groups.

This month in the spotlight, is the Medical Partners group located in Iowa City, Iowa.

Quoting from the Medical Partners' website: "For over fifty year, Medical Partners has existed as a nonprofit organization for the spouses/partners of the physicians and dentists in training at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics."

1. How do you go about informing all of the incoming residents/fellows about the Medical Partners group?

Every year after the medical student Match Day we obtain a list of all incoming residents and fellows from the hospital's House Staff Affairs office. With this information we send out a welcome packet to each incoming physician. Within this packet we include information about our group, as well as information from many local businesses and information about available housing in our community.

Along with this, in the beginning of July our officers contact the secretaries of each speciality and obtain a list of phone numbers of new residents. We then personally call all of the physicians and invite their spouse/significant other to our group's welcome reception.

2. What type of event do you plan to welcome the new partners?

At the end of July on a Saturday we host a brunch for our current Medical Partners members and all incoming partners. At this brunch we introduce everyone to our current officers and give a brief overview of what our group has to offer. We pass out membership forms and also sign-up sheets for the different clubs. This has been a great way to kick off the new year by bringing together all of our current members and potential new members.

The following day we host a family picnic at a local park for our current members and all of the new residents and their families. We usually find a sponsor for this picnic who provides the food and beverages.

3. Does your group have any sponsors?

Our group has three sponsors that we have developed partnerships with. For over 25 years we have been partnering with a local State Farm agent that has donated to our group financially as well as helping out tremendously with our resident welcome packets. Our second sponsor is North Star Resource Group, a financial group in the area. North Star has been a sponsor of ours for the last few years. They sponsor some of our parties each year. Our third sponsor was added last year. Their name is Adamantine Spine Moving. They sponsored our large Holiday party last year. These sponsors have allowed us to have fun celebrations while keeping our membership fee minimal.

4. What types of clubs or activities does your group offer?

Currently our group has seven different clubs. These clubs include: Book Club, Cooking Club, Playgroup, Children's Activity, Entertainment Club, Hobby Night, and S.O.S. (Spouses Out Socializing).

5. How do you organize the activities for each of these clubs?

Each club has an officer and meets once a month, except for playgroup which meets weekly. On a quarterly basis each officer plans activities for the next 3 months for their specific club. The officers are in charge of deciding when, where, and what the club will be doing that month/week. We have a general schedule of which club meets during which week of the month to keep the scheduling conflicts minimal.

6. What method do you use to inform your members about the upcoming activities?

On a quarterly basis we mail our group's newsletter - The Pulse. The Pulse contains everything our members need to know for the upcoming 3 months. We have a section for each club where the dates and activities are listed. We also include a monthly schedule that summarizes all of the activities for that month. Our club's president also includes a letter in The Pulse as a way to inform our members of other upcoming activities they may be interested in and to touch base on how things are going within our group.

We also have a group website. On our website members can find out the monthly schedule for each club and much more pertinent information. Including information about Iowa City, housing information, local business information, philanthropic activities, and member business information.

7. Does your group engage any philanthropic activities?

Our group tries to do a philanthropic project each year. In previous years some of our projects have been: sponsoring families in need at Christmas, making fleece blankets for the nurseries at the hospital, and serving a meal at our local soup kitchen.

Last year our big philanthropic project was putting together an "elegant night of shopping" event to benefit a Cedar Rapids family who lost their home and possessions in the flood. We had a huge response from the community and individuals and were able to raise $1600 for the family.

To find out more information about Medical Partners view their website here or feel free to contact them at medical_partners@hotmail.com.

Introduction & Book Review

Hi all:

My name is Bea. I'm married to my high school sweetheart, J, who is a PGY-1 surgery resident in a Philadelphia hospital. Since I'm married to a doctor I'm committed to learning about how to have a successful medical marriage. In fact, I decided to start a blog on medical marriages, just so I can record things I've learned, books that have helped me, and advice that I've heard from others in the know. Through my blog I've met a group of wonderful medical spouses, including Abby, who asked that I post on here from time to time.

I'm an avid reader and I've got a whole stack of books on medical topics that I'm reading and reviewing. Below is one of my first book reviews. Hope you enjoy!


How Doctors Think is a nicely written book that provides insight into a doctor's cognitive process and offers advice on how patients and doctors can work collaboratively to achieve a successful outcome in treating a patient.

Audience. In the early stages of his book, Groopman notes that the book is aimed at a layperson. While the book is easy to read and the medical terms and conditions are understandable to a layperson, there were several instances where I felt the book was better suited to a doctor than to a patient. More on that point below.

Organization. Groopman organizes chapters by themes and by specialty. However, this organization is difficult to discern at first glance. I've added information about chapters that deal with certain specialties. Although the chapters aren't exclusively about that specialty, a lot of the discussion centers on a specific field. The chapters are as follows:

  1. Flesh-and-Blood Decision-Making
  2. Lessons from the Heart
  3. Spinning Plates
  4. Gatekeepers (primary care physicians)
  5. A New Mother's Challenge (pediatricians)
  6. The Uncertainty of the Expert
  7. Surgery and Satisfaction (surgery)
  8. The Eye of the Beholder (radiology)
  9. Marketing, Money, and Medical Decisions
  10. In Service of the Soul (oncologists)
Each chapter is a manageable length. Generally, Groopman begins each chapter with stories from the medical field that illustrate the cognitive thought process of a doctor. The story then leads into explanations of the doctor's thought process, and concludes by telling patients how they can tap into this cognitive thought process.Ultimately, the greatest (and most practical) nuggets of information are towards the end of each chapter. For a patient who is desperate to find out how to communicate better with a doctor, I'd skip to the end of the chapter. While the entire chapter may be enlightening and entertaining, there are times when Groopman gets caught up in narrative prose and unnecessarily prolongs a valuable lesson. Groopman probably runs into this problem because he loves his profession and loves stories that illustrate his point, so I don't fault him for being a bit wordy. I just think some people may be reading this book to help with pressing issues about their health and they may want to cut to the chase. If I were the editor of this book, I would have provided a bulleted list at the end of each chapter summarizing his points. A bulleted list would take away from the story-telling, but it would be extremely helpful for the audience the book is primarily geared towards- patients with puzzling medical issues that want to problem solve more effectively with their doctor. Perhaps the most valuable chapter is the Epilogue which really delves into how a patient can ask questions effectively. Even that chapter digresses into medical stories, but the beginning of the epilogue is exceedingly helpful.

Here are some examples of his great advice. Depending on the situation, ask your doctor:

  • What's the worst thing this illness/condition could be?
  • What body parts are near where I am having my pain?
  • How often do complications occur from this surgery?

The overarching theme of the book was the play between a patient's desire to be healed, the doctor's desire to heal, and the limitations of a doctor and a patient. The doctor is only human and both doctors and patients need to accept this fact. No doctor, no matter how much practice and wisdom she has, can solve every problem. Patients need to accept this limitation but work with the doctor to achieve the best outcome, with full acceptance of the limitations presented.

Who should read this book? I'd recommend this book to patients who have encountered frustrating sessions with their doctor and would like to approach future interactions in a more satisfactory way. I'd also recommend the book to skeptics, because they may have become skeptics because of failures to communicate effectively with their doctor. But most importantly, I'd recommend this book to doctors. Groopman certainly intended to make the book manageable for a layperson, but a large part of the book is dedicated to information that would best benefit a doctor. He discusses a myriad of psychological terms related to a doctor's thought process-- things such as commission bias, satisfaction of search, attribution error, distorted pattern recognition-- all of which I'm glad I learned about, but ultimately wouldn't help me if I'm sitting across from my doctor trying to solve a medical puzzle. The reason these terms won't help me is because I can't see inside my doctor's brain, so I can't see which cognitive process he's experiencing at that moment. Only a doctor can analyze his thought process and see where he may have made an error in judgment.

Of course, the problem is, what doctor (or resident, at least) has time to read a 200+ page book? My suggestion is, if you're a doctor and you are strapped for time, go directly to the chapters that pertain to your specialty. My husband, for example, should read the surgery chapter and the one about radiology, because Groopman gives some good advice in the radiology chapter for doctors in other specialties and how they can best communicate with a radiologist.

I probably wouldn't recommend this book to someone who is in general good health, is young, and hasn't really encountered any puzzling medical condition that needs to be treated. Of course, we never know when we're going to have our body break down on us. But I have to be honest. There are a million books I'd love to read. If I weren't married to a doctor or interested in the medical field, I probably wouldn't put this book at the top of my to-read pile. If I were in my 70s, or if I had a chronic medical condition that hasn't fully been treated effectively, I definitely would put it up there. I also would put it at the top of my pile if I had an aging parent with persistent medical conditions. Finally, if you just love reading medical stories, this book has enough stories to keep you engaged.

Advice for medical spouses? The book never purports to be a guide for medical marriages, but I do think spouses of doctors can stand to benefit from reading this book. First, spouses of doctors often get the brunt of complaints about doctors from family members and friends. A doctor's spouse can politely offer this book as a solution for a patient who is frustrated with the relationship they have with their doctor. Also, the book provides a lot of great advice for physicians, but physicians likely don't have the time to read it. A spouse may glean helpful information from the book to provide to the doctor spouse when the spouse discusses instances of miscommunication with a patient. Consistent with the premise of the book, the person who has more time to devote to bettering communication channels with a doctor can use certain words to produce successful interactions. In the words of Groopman:

after writing this book, I realized that I can have another vital partner who helps improve my thinking, a partner, who may, with a few persistent and focused questions, protect me from a cascade of cognitive pitfalls that cause misguided care. That partner is present in the moment when flesh-and-blood decision-making occurs. That partner is my patient or her family member or friend who seeks to know what is in my mind, how I am thinking.

Bottom line. This was a very enriching book and I think everyone could stand to learn something from it. I can see why it has been a best seller and I do think it's a book that needed to be written. I enjoyed reading it.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Have a Blog?

Does anyone have a blog that they would like to share with the rest of us??

Please leave a comment with your blog address if you would be willing to share!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Effects of Rising Medical Student Debt

The American Medical Association’s Medical Student Section reviewed data compiled over the last twenty years and found that medical student debt is rising faster than the Consumer Price Index. The group warns that if left uncontrolled, this debt increase will lead to shifts in specialty choice, increased burnout, and a reduction in the number of minorities entering medical school. Learn more.

How is medical school debt affecting your family?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Proposed legislation would provide medical school scholarships

Cong. Jim McDermott (D-WA) recently introduced legislation that would provide up to four-years tuition for medical students in exchange for practicing medicine in underserved areas. Learn more.

Would your family take advantage of this program if it were available? Tell us in the comments.

Support needed for national Cover the Uninsured Week

The American Medical Association’s Medical Student Section (MSS) has been very active in supporting efforts to cover the uninsured. Last year, more than 50 MSS chapters organized events during Cover the Uninsured Week in addition to year-long efforts to support this National Service Project. As part of our ongoing efforts, we are proud to support the 2009 Cover the Uninsured Week from March 22 to 28 this year. We would greatly appreciate and encourage all Alliance members to help in this campaign at the local level and to contact the national Alliance for the names of our MSS contact in their area. Thank you very much. Learn more

Jessica Nguyen-Trong
AMA Council on Legislation Student Representative UT Southwestern Medical School

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

AMA Alliance Community Match Program

Match Day is an exciting time for young medical families, but it can be nerve-wracking to adjust to a new lifestyle and a new city where you may not know anyone.

To help you and your spouse get acquainted with your new community, we invite you to "match your spouse" to the AMA Alliance physician family network. We can help connect you to your new community before you move so that an Alliance member can help you with the transition.

Getting involved in the Alliance is a great way to connect with others who know what you’re going through as the spouse of a physician-in-training and can provide support and encouragement.

To take advantage of the program, simply complete the application form at http://www.amaalliance.org/site/epage/74217_625.htm and email it to MaryLouise.Rieger@ama-assn.org or fax it to 312-464-5020.

Julie Ziegler, AMA Alliance Director of Membership

Monday, March 9, 2009

Staying Connected In Your Alliance

My husband Gary and I are moving to San Diego in June for him to complete his radiology residency at UCSD. I have to admit I was a little nervous moving to a city where I know nobody. In October I received an email from Debi Ricks, the California Medical Association Alliance President inquiring what we do in Oklahoma to involve the medical student/resident physician spouses. After exchanging a few emails I was invited to attend their CMAA Winter Board Meeting in San Diego. I flew out there and met an amazing group of women! I had the opportunity to speak about the importance of involving the medical student/resident physician spouses in their county and state activities. Over the four years of being very in the alliance I have learned that being involved and staying connected is the biggest advantage you will have. There are several ways for you to get involved and some are: attend county/state alliance meetings, attend Leadership Development Conference (LDC) in Chicago, get involved with your medical school, stay connected with other spouses around the US and help each other with ideas and get involved with AMA Alliance.

If you have any questions or your county/state does not have an medical student/resident physician spouse alliance please feel free to email me at amschooler@yahoo.com. I will be more than happy to help you get going!

Always remember to stay connected and together we will build a strong alliance!!!

Ashlie Schooler
Oklahoma MSSA/RPSA

Monday, February 9, 2009

Celebrating Match Day

Match Day is an exciting time for Medical Students and their families. We would love for you to share your Match Day stories, celebrations and photos with us. Please email your photos to AllianceKL@mchsi.com

Kathy Lariviere, YMC Chair

Friday, January 16, 2009

About the Young Member Connection

Who is YMC?
The AMA Alliance Young Member Connection is a network of medical students and their spouses as well as resident physicians and their spouses. We are members of the AMA Alliance and we know that support for the family of medicine is most comforting when it is provided by the family of medicine.

The mission of the AMA Alliance is to partner with physicians to promote the good health of America and support the family of medicine.

Programs Available
Medical school and residency can be stressful for young physicians. The AMA Alliance knows that the training years can be just as challenging for the physician's spouse. The following programs are available to members:

* Making Choices for a Medical Lifestyle
What specialty should I choose? Is it possible to have work/life balance as a physician? These are questions medical students and their spouses often ask themselves. Get answers to these questions from physicians who have experienced life in and out of the lab coat.

* Surviving the Training Years
This panel session will discuss how your family can survive—and even thrive—during the difficult medical training years.

* Physicians-In-Training Host Program
The AMA Alliance, AMA Medical Student Section and AMA Resident/Fellows Section have joined forces to provide housing opportunities for fourth-year medical students as they interview for residency. The program was created to help students cut down on interviewing costs, get to know the community surrounding their potential residency program, and introduce them to the local medical society and Alliance. Through the Physicians-In-Training Host Program, students can expect a one-or-two-night stay in an Alliance member's home. Click here to download an application.

* Discounts
As a young member, you will receive a 75% discount off of an AMA Alliance annual membership (Regular dues are $40 for physicians and their spouses. Dues for medical students and their spouses as well as resident physicians and their spouses are $10). Additionally, you may receive discounts or waived registration fees to selected AMA Alliance events.

* Membership that travels with you
Chances are that you will relocate following medical school, residency, or fellowship training. Your alliance membership travels with you. We can help connect you to your new community before you move so that an Alliance member can help you with the transition to a new community.