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.

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