Monday, June 16, 2014

So, You Want to Marry a Doctor?

This weekend was exciting for our family.  Jeremy graduated from his fellowship program. This means he will start private practice in two weeks, and that we get to start paying off a whole lotta debt!  I'm pretty excited...about one of these things! 

So, here's the thing: I want you to all know I'm not complaining.  We have had some wonderful experiences, met some of our best friends, and lived in two great states. BUT, this has been freaking hard at times!  I am so proud of my husband, and I wanted to share our 13-year, non-sugarcoated adventure in getting to this point.  So there I was...

I started dating my husband in December of 2000. My attraction to Jeremy had nothing to do with the fact that he wanted to be a doctor, but I'll be honest, to my 20-year-old self, it was a major bonus. Little did I know that wanting to be a doctor, being a doctor, and actually making money as a doctor are all completely different. Oh, so different.
This is the crazy, long-boarding, bleached blonde, baggie pant-wearing guy I met in college. He could be a doctor, right? I mean, he obviously has no problem with open wounds and blood.  Or taking pictures of himself before he goes to the ER after a longboard crash.
When Jeremy and I married in May of 2001, he had completed one year of school. One. Year. After lots of studying, testing, moving, training, paying, working, and a-la-ah-ott of debt, we are almost done. Yes, in just 13 short years, you, too, can be married to a doctor! 

The Undergrad Years (2000-2004) | Brigham Young University | Provo, UT
During your third year of undergrad, you take the MCAT, which is the test you have to take to get into medical school. (This is another post for another time, but, I should mention that the day Jeremy took the MCAT was just a few days after we found out I was diagnosed with cancer.) The test is an eight hour test and costs $.  Once you get your results back, you start applying to schools all over the country. Of course, each application costs $.  If they like your first application, you fill out a secondary application, which costs even more. If they like your secondary application, you will fly out to each school to interview. Flights, rental cars, and hotels are, of course, on your own dime.
These are some of Jeremy's MCAT books and papers.  We were pretty excited to get rid of them!
The Medical School Years (2005-2009) | Medical College of WI | Wauwatosa, WI
Remember that little cancer thing? Well, medical school doesn't even wait for that. You HAVE to be there for the first day. Yes, even if your wife is in the hospital in Utah undergoing a stem-cell transplant. You either start on time, or wait a year. We decided to start on time.  Jeremy moved across the country to start medical school while I was sick and bald in the hospital. I met him out there five weeks later.

Medical school is kind of rough. You never see your husband. Jeremy spent more time studying than I spent at a full-time job. The first two years is primarily classroom training, and the second two are spent rotating through various specialties. This is usually about the time when said husband becomes addicted to Mountain Dew to get through 30+ hour shifts and long nights studying.  This is also when my hate of the pager came about. (That thing is so inconsiderate!) Medical school costs LOADS of money, and you move far away from your family. The good news? We absolutely loved our time in Milwaukee and met friends we will have forever. Somewhere in these years, you take some board exams--Step 1 and Step 2. These tests are hundreds of dollars, but it gets worse…there are more! During medical school, you apply to residencies. A residency is where you receive your specialty training--so for Jeremy, residency was anesthesiology training. 
Medical school graduation--this was year 8 of 13 for us.
Again, you apply and fly out to interviews. This usually happens any time from October - January. You submit a rank list of the programs you interviewed at into some magical system, and the programs rank you as well. And then you wait.  You wait until March something, which is Match Day. On Match Day, you go into a room with all of the other students in your class and their families. They call each name, and one by one, you go get your envelope, open it, and find out where you will be spending the next 3-5+ years of your life. This is when we found out we matched for an internship in Milwaukee and a residency in St. Louis.

The Internship (2009-2010) | St. Joseph's Hospital | Milwaukee, WI
As an intern, you work a lot of hours and get paid very little--but you don't pay tuition; instead, you get to accrue a ridiculous amount of interest on your medical school loans that you can't afford to make payments on.   Interns can write prescriptions and do doctor stuff, so that's a bonus. You get three weeks of vacation.  You submit your vacation requests the year prior, and you have to take them a full week at a time. You can't just take off a random day. During Jeremy's internship, Stella was born. But, because she was born in a non-vacation month, Jeremy didn't get to attend her birth in Utah. (This is when I learned that paternity leave doesn't really exist during medical training--unless you want your husband's life to be miserable with his attending. OR, if you really pushed for paternity leave, you just prolong your misery training.)  One thing you learn very quickly during medical school is that they don't make exceptions. Ever...even if you adopt a baby in Utah, and you live in Wisconsin. This is also a good time for me to mention that being a medical wife means doing almost everything on your own, never knowing what your husband's schedule will be for more than a few weeks at a time, and that celebrating birthdays and holidays on the wrong day is okay to do.
This is the day Jeremy met Stella. It was the day after she was born.  He caught a flight from Milwaukee to Salt Lake City after he had completed a thirty hour shift. He flew back out to Milwaukee three days later for another shift. Stella and I stayed in Utah for about a week after that waiting for the adoption paperwork to process, so that we could leave the state.
If your baby gets hospitalized during medical training, you are lucky if your hubs is rotating at the hospital next to the children's hospital, so he can come visit in between shifts.
Residency (2010-2013) | Washington University | St. Louis, MO
During residency, you work as a physician and still get paid very little. Again. Jeremy's residency was three years. During your last year, you apply to fellowships. Same drill as before: more applications, more flying to interviews, mo money. (Hey, I lived in Milwaukee AND St. Louis, I had to slip a little bit of gangsta in there!)
During some rotations, we would visit Jeremy at the hospital. You never knew when the pager would go off, and your little date would end!
Residency made all of us tired! I have no idea how Jeremy survived on so little sleep!
Stella had to get tear duct surgery done twice during residency. Luckily, Jeremy was able to meet us at the children's hospital after his overnight shifts. Who needs sleep, right?! 
This picture was taken at Jeremy's residency graduation. We were pretty excited to be going back to Utah to complete just one more year of training and say good-bye to overnight shifts forever!
Fellowship (2013-2014) | University of Utah | Salt Lake City, UT
This is where we are, now--for just two more weeks! (EEEEEE!!!) A fellowship is sub-specialty training. Jeremy is sub-specializing in interventional pain management. (He treats patients with chronic pain, and rumor has it, he's a really good doctor, so feel free to send him some patients! Haha! No, really.) During fellowship, you take more boards and spend thousands more on both a written and oral board exam. The oral board is offered in only one city in the US, so, you guessed it, more money for travel and hotels. During fellowship is also when you try to find a job, which is an emotional roller coaster of not knowing where you're family is going to end up.

SO...after all of that, Mr. Jeremy will be joining a private practice here in Salt Lake City, UT. He will have to take a pain management board exam at some point, and then he has to take his anesthesiology and pain management boards every ten years. Are you wondering what all this fun costs?  Medical school tuition ranges anywhere from $50,000-$300,000+, depending on where you go. (Unfortunately, we're on the high end of that range.) Everything outside of tuition (exams, books, travel, applications, licensing, moving, etc.), is probably about $15,000+. Was it worth it? I think so, but ask us in five years! ;)
My little family. I'm kind of proud of us, especially the guy in the middle!
Don't get me wrong. For every negative, I could have definitely named a positive that came from this experience. We have absolutely loved this journey, but we kind of didn't know what we were in for, and I'm still finding out! So, if you've made it to the end of this post, here is my advice: never say that a doctor makes too much money, AND if you ever date a boy who wants to be a doctor, beware! (I joke, I joke…)


  1. Congratulations to Jeremy AND to you! Being a doctor is basically like graduating high school and then going back to kindergarten and doing it all over again (except it's waaaay more difficult and A LOT more moolah!). I'm glad that part of your journey was spent in St. Louis so that we could meet. :) Now on to new adventures and spending the next decade or two paying off all those loans!

  2. Congratulations to you and yours! I echo your sentiments exactly! I married my husband after his first year of medical school and we are still wading through residency. To call it a journey is an understatement. We have a year and a month of residency left and then on to the real world (hopefully with no pagers and 30 hour calls)! I tell people all they time that they want to marry a "practicing" doctor, not one who is just starting the process...haha!

    1. Thanks! You are so close to being done! Good luck!

  3. Jamie, we have so much more things in common then!!!! My hubs finished Neurology at northwestren (hence we lived in Chicago for 4 years , I trained in Sinai there too) before then he trained in INterventional pain at Mayo in Minnesota!!!!! Small World! We didn't move with him though to Minnesota, he just drove to and from during the weekends he could to be with us( I was working then as a hospitalist with the University of Chicago). I can tell you, with 2 kids and a mortgage in Chicago, residency pay though there were two of us was TOUGH. But now, my hubs and I are pretty contented with our lives, definitely a major income boost, but the lifestyle is so much better. I work part time (MWF only no hospital calls) and my hubs works daily, but does no calls as well- all out-patient! so hopefully your hubs will find a practice that will offer great lifestyle too and not just great salary. Congratulations, now the real fun starts with finding your new home and charging on!

  4. On a side note, we're luckier in a way since we both went to med school in the Philippines, we don't have the burden of such loans. There's lots of loan repayment jobs and hopefully the one he chose does that for you. :-)

  5. Yay! Congrats to all of you! We are finishing year 11 of 14! I am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel! I think the hardest part is the uncertainty of the next stage.

    1. Thanks, Amanda! It really does go by quickly, and I agree, uncertainty is always the worst part!

  6. What an adventure! I worked as a temp for a while at MCV, and heard so many horror stories about how expensive medical training is. Everybody thinks that doctors are so ‘rich’, but between school loans, all the other costs you describe, and then insurance…it’s an expensive racket! But I hear that anesthesiology is one of the most lucrative specialties, too. Hopefully that will help lower those bills in no time. Many congratulations to you and your family on such an accomplishment.

    1. Do you mean Medical College of Virginia in Richmond, VA? My husband did his medical school at MCV. :) We love VA!

  7. I thought I posted a comment this morning but apparently my phone crapped out on it. Congratulations for your family's HUGE accomplishment! Now go to Fiji or something!

  8. Thank you so much for sharing this experience. It's just what I needed to read as my husband and I are counting down the days to our first 4 years of medical school, all while selling our small gift shop. Eep! It's so refreshing to read from the perspective of a wife and mother who is willing to stand by the side of her husband, recognize his hard work (and the included cost), and be willing to do so much on your own. Bravo! And congratulations on your wonderful daughter and pushing through your battle with cancer. I'm impressed to say the east and am so happy that you are open minded and understanding of the consequences of life-long decisions.

    1. Hailey, thank you so much for your comments! It is overwhelming and scary, but I promise you, we had some of the best experiences and met some of our dearest friends while away. Good luck with everything! Where are you going to medical school?

  9. Whoa! I knew bits and pieces of your story, but I had no idea just how difficult and rewarding this journey has been for all of you! Fighting cancer, adopting Stella, and everything in between all while Jeremy persevered through medical two are incredible. Thank you for sharing your story. I have so much more appreciation for what doctors and their families go through to earn the title of Doctor! And here's hoping those student loans are payed off soon so you can begin reaping your well-deserved rewards! Glad to hear you are staying in Utah too!


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