Wednesday, April 29, 2015

MiM Mail: Planning for baby #2

I'm a resident, wife, and mom to one, hoping to have one or two more children. My first was born during intern year, and we're planning for a second during residency. With my first, I ended up with multiple third trimester complications that eventually led to 2 weeks of bedrest and delivery a month early. I've been an avid follower of MiM since before my first pregnancy, and I'm hoping for advice and encouragement from some of you.

I'm in a field that requires a separate intern year and am now working with people unfamiliar with my first pregnancy. All they know is what I choose to tell them. I think my current PD knows I had complications, but not the specifics. Thanks in part to an amazingly supportive PD my intern year, I finished PGY1 and started PGY2 on time. From a residency timeline I'm right on track, and I have some sense of when the "best" times could be to have another baby during my program. We'd end up with about a 2.5 year spacing. Our preference would be somewhere closer to 2 years rather than 3.5+.

My spouse is great with baby #1, does a lot around the house, and picked up a ton of slack during my first pregnancy. It was hard, but we made it through, and my upcoming schedule will be easier than it was last time.

Medically, my odds for the healthiest possible second pregnancy considering my complications are higher if we choose not to wait until after residency. Besides, at that point I'll have written and oral boards and be trying to establish myself in a practice, so I'm not convinced it would be much easier.

In many ways, I feel like I'm between a rock and a hard place. When I think about attempting #2 during residency there's a part of me that wants to believe we'll make it through just fine, but the realistic side of me expects a great deal of physical, emotional, and mental strain. I wasn't deathly ill, but it wasn't fun, and both baby and I could have gotten very sick very fast. I expect to deal with some problems again, but hopefully not all, and hopefully not the one that led to bedrest. I'll be meeting soon with a new OB to talk through everything.

I don't want to sell myself short, and if I feel like having a second soon would risk compromising my training. On the flip side, ultimately we don't want to stop with one kid, and waiting would only compound my risks. Jumping to adoption is not the right answer for us.

Where we are now, we have a lot of support outside of residency. Even if we move after training, it makes sense to have another baby while we're here. I think there would be support from my program, but I don't think it could be as robust as it was with my first. My previous PD was amazing; few could measure up. My peers have verbalized a mutual intent to help cover for each other when circumstances arise including babies, but I haven't gone into details of my first with them and don't care to unless it becomes necessary. I don't see how they could understand what I was up against, or how it would help to talk about it right now. I sure hope I don't need weekly or twice weekly appointments until the last short stretch, but we might end up there again.

I guess I have an idea in my head that if I do decide to pursue a fellowship and don't finish residency on time, I can look for a job for a year, maybe a couple years, and then continue training. I may also be happy without a fellowship. I know people say it's hard to go back to a resident's salary (or worse) after being out for awhile, but we could knock out a lot of debt in a year or two and be in a better place for me to take a pay cut, even with 2 kids in daycare. I don't think the financial side would prevent fellowship down the road if I wanted it.

Anyone have advice for how, when, and what to communicate to my program and my co-residents if we do get pregnant again? Thoughts on trying during residency with high probability for some (manageable) complications vs waiting and dealing with recurrent and possibly worse complications? What else do we need to consider? Anyone else make it through a difficult pregnancy without feeling like you lost your competence as a physician?


Monday, April 27, 2015

Guest post: Gender equality?

I generally LOVE my job. I work part time as an anesthesiologist at an academic medical center in the Midwest. There are several other part-time faculty in my department, both male and female, which has created an atmosphere where the commitment of part-time workers to their careers is not typically questioned. My department recently scheduled an all day seminar on an upcoming Saturday, geared for and limited to our own department's clinical faculty, with educational topics ranging from reviews of clinical care, giving feedback to residents, and research resources. I decide not to go, as Saturdays that I'm not on call (I'm typically on call one weekend/month) are generally reserved for family time, my kids have some new activities starting this Saturday, the weather is (finally) getting nice, and with the exception of about a 2 hour period, I'm not that interested in the agenda. So I have a discussion with my husband (who is generally wonderful and supportive of my career) about our upcoming weekend plans and I mention that I may go to the 2 hr period of the seminar that I'm actually interested in, depending on what else he has planned/would like to do with the family. It turns out he is not at all in favor of me going to only the 2 hours of interest to me- he thinks I'm making a big mistake by not going to the entire seminar- commenting that I will likely miss out on networking opportunities, face time with higher leadership, etc. The discussion continues, and he comments, "3 out of the 4 women who directly report to me behave just as you're doing, not taking after work hours events seriously...and it is negatively impacting their opportunities for advancement." Side note: he works as an upper-level manager at a major business and typically spends at least 2 evenings/week out of the house attending either work related activities or board of director activities for local non-profits. At this point, I was pretty angry, reminding him that the 3 women in question all have young children (as do we), and I ended the conversation telling him, don't take it for granted that you are able to spend multiple nights/week away from home for various purposes- it's only because I am at home caring for the family that you get this opportunity- these women that you work with that don't make it to all the evening activities- who is caring for their families?- that's why they're not there.

As one may surmise, working at an academic center means that there are frequently lectures, town halls, discussions, seminars, etc to which faculty are invited to attend. Once in a while these sound interesting to me and actually don't conflict with my clinical responsibilities. However, I usually feel stressed when I decide to go as it means either arranging evening childcare or childcare on what would normally be my day off with our nanny (she is great and very flexible but out of respect for her I do my best to minimize requests for super early mornings, evenings, and significant schedule changes to what is truly necessary) or trying to explain the importance of it to my husband so that he will be home at a reasonable time (it is not uncommon that his evening activities come with only a day or two of warning). In the end, I usually just don't go- it's much easier that way. I am long past the "Mommy guilt" that I felt for working at all when my first child was born; I truly love what I do, am proud of my work, feel reasonably respected at work, and feel like I honestly do have a good work-life balance. I am able to make some time for myself without guilt- I go to the gym semi-regularly and spend time with girlfriends about once/month. However, I admit I continue to struggle with guilt in situations such as the one I mentioned.

So, I'm interested in the opinions of others- how much should our attendance be expected at after hours work activities? How much guilt do you feel about going (or not going) to these types of events? Do you even feel like you really have a choice to go given family responsibilities? If you regularly go to these types of events, how do you manage to get there?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

MiM Mail: Part-time residency?

Dear Colleagues and mothers,

I'm a final year IMG who, just like my husband, soon am about to apply for residency. The thing is that I am also a mother, and that's why I'm now writing here. I consider myself ambitious and strive to become a well-educated and good physician one day. However, my role as a mother is also of great importance to me and the responsibilities and duties I feel towards my daughter is something I cannot ignore. I strongly believe that I should not have to choose between career and family, which is why I wonder if anyone has any experience of so called "part-time" residency? Is it possible to get such an agreement anywhere? Where could I find more information about this? Also, would these requests lower my chance to match?

I'm interested in paediatrics, and with "part-time," I mean about 40-50 work hours per week instead of up to 80. Naturally I understand that such a "reduced schedule" also means a longer residency and lower salary, which I do not consider a problem.

I really appreciate all the help and information I could get!


Monday, April 20, 2015

Hurtling toward the next phase

I have searched but I cannot find the flying trapeze story I read a few years ago that explains my life, so I’ll paraphrase and add to it here:

I swing back and forth preparing for my next take off. I have prepared, but I know that this leap is longer and more challenging than ever before. In spite of a long line of successful jumps, there have been some near-misses, some full on misses, some blood, scrapes and even some still healing deeper wounds. This time I jump, my husband is watching and waiting readying himself for his jump into dissertation land and as we prepare Zo waits by ready to take off with us.

Well MiM friends, it’s official, I have accepted a position as a Pediatrician in my dream clinic. I’ll be back in DC working at an academic center-affiliated community clinic. I did my community pediatrics rotation there as a medical student and so many of my respected supervisors and medical school friends are still there.

Interviews were a whirlwind. I met so many nice people, got lost countless times, learned even more about what I need, want, and will compromise on.  

And now onto school finding. Every day I have a mini-freak out when I think about Little Zo starting pre-k. Our cherubic toddler has been replaced by an almost 4 year old hilariously funny and extremely sweet rib-protruding knock-kneed ball of energy. And then I freak out more about making pick up and drop off work and I pray so intensely that we find the right environment for him and that we will find balance so I can rock my boards and O can finish his dissertation expeditiously. I wish I could transplant his daycare to DC.

And house hunting on a single income in a very tight housing market is not my favorite thing to do but I guess house hunting without the beloved Property Brothers will always be lackluster. We have several leads on promising houses and are heading up next weekend prepared to make an offer. Can’t wait to have our first home secured and then on to do-it-yourself projects for years to come.

This jump seems epic. Push-pull-push-pull, forward backward forward backward, take off.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

MiM Mail: Having children with both parents in training

Hi Mothers in Medicine,

I am a longtime reader of the MIM blog, and really appreciate being able to read your stories. You are inspiring! I am writing to request advice, especially from those who had children during medical training with a medical spouse (or spouse with a very demanding career).

I am nearing the end of my 1st year of med school, and my husband is a resident in a surgical subspecialty, with 4 more years to go. We would love to have a large family (4-5 kids), and are a bit older than the average med student/resident so waiting to have kids until after training isn’t realistic. We are ready to start our family, but I am a little nervous about being the primary caregiver (with outside help) as a medical student. I know that my husband will make a wonderful father, but given his 80 hr weeks at the hospital he won’t be able to contribute as much time-wise. Having kids is super important to us, and some days I question whether medicine was the right choice for me, but I am doing well academically and I think I am on the right path.

Our tentative plan (acknowledging things don’t always go as planned!) is as follows, and I would love to hear your thoughts about pros/cons, other ideas and tips on how to make it work! We are considering aiming for baby #1 at the end of 3rd year. I would like to take a semester of maternity leave, then complete my year of elective rotations (daycare or a visiting Grandma for childcare), have baby #2 and take another semester off for maternity leave before starting residency. Has anyone tried to/ succeeding in taking 2 separate semesters off rather than a year at once for maternity leave? Is completing 80% of my clinical rotations while pregnant realistic? Any advice about the timing of clinical rotations? I hesitate to talk to my school’s administration, when did you approach them? Is starting residency with a 2 yr and 6 mo doable? Is it really possible to do a “part-time” residency? How difficult is it to take the full 12 wks of FMLA for maternity leave during residency? Am I crazy for thinking that this sounds like a reasonable plan? Have you been through something similar and barely survived, or were you able to thrive? Any advice would be greatly appreciated!


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Guest post: Oral boards anxiety

Tonight I ran a Google search "thoughts about the oral OB-GYN boards" and your site came up. I read all your comments in the hope I will find some relief of my anxiety. I did not.

You see, I passed my oral OB-GYN boards 6 years ago. I can't remember being this petrified prior to taking them and I felt ok after the examination has ended. Now, it's time for round two: my oral subspecialty Boards. I can't figure out why, but this time around I am mortified. Everything about it, the clinical part - am I thinking like a subspecialist? am I dissecting this disorder process in 10 different way for analysis? The research part (the scariest of all) - am I going to survive the probing questions regarding the study design and power, the statistical significance of my results, is my data "worthy" and my results "meaningful" to their scientific expectations? An then, the genetics - will I remember what findings fit the puzzle of what disorder, how well am I counseling my patients? I wish I could find my answers before I walk into that room to go through it all for yet again, the second longest three hours of my life.

I hope I will survive them next week and not have to repeat this ever. Although I am as prepared for it as much as I will ever be, I still feel "On a wing and a prayer."

Speaking about a prayer, I think I could use one in just a few short days.

A little bio about me:
IronGirl practices Maternal-Fetal Medicine in Midtown America, mother of two beautiful children Jek 13, and Lui 10, wife to Mr. Bold, non-MD guy that likes to play with fire and ice for a living, awesome hubby, caring partner, and multitasked oriented sports-dad.

IronGirl likes to spend her free time (is there any time that's free, hmm...) running, biking, swimming, racing, and sometimes just chilling by a bonfire listening to Flamenco music. And now, getting initiated into blogging.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Guest post: ADHD or ASD?

My oldest child is eight years old. He is funny, super-smart, and charming. He once made up a song about how much he loves me.

He has also recently been diagnosed with ADHD.

You see, ever since he was very young, I knew there was something different about him. I was just finishing my second year of medical school, and he was my first child. But I knew. In infancy, he stared at objects of interest with an intensity of focus that was mesmerizing. When he began to speak, he spoke eloquently (seriously!) and argued his points with logic well before the age of 2. He never joined in group activities, but observed them solemnly and seriously. He slept poorly. He had explosive, long-lasting, inconsolable tantrums about everything from transitions to meals to seams in his socks. He had severe separation anxiety at school drop-off, which lasts to this day. He had (has) exquisite sensory sensitivities. He remains a slave to routine and ritual (and reacts poorly indeed when things change). He can talk for hours about black holes and superheroes. He clearly loves his siblings and his parents, but all interactions must be on his terms.

I thought – I still think – that he has an ASD. Asperger's. It's him to a T.

I could write for pages and pages about my son and his symptoms and his birth and neonatal course and December birthday and GI problems and build my case to you – fellow physicians and mothers – as to why I am so sure that ADHD is the wrong diagnosis. But at the end of the day, in my mind, the letters don't really matter. All I want is someone out there to help us better parent our child. The way he relates with the world is not "neurotypical", that is for certain. But how can I help him, who he is, grow and thrive and make his way in peace and confidence in this world? My husband and I have done a lot which I think has been very good for our son. But we were at an impasse. We took him to the pediatrician because we were looking for help. Guidance.

So now we have this diagnosis. Maybe it is accurate, maybe not. I am truly not writing this as an argument one way or another for his actual diagnosis. The essence of my post relates to my own reaction to hearing the diagnosis. I just thought: no. Not that. NO. I would have accepted "ASD" – I suspected it. I may have accepted some kind of anxiety disorder. Or – no diagnosis! That's just who he is, and here's how we can help you. That would have worked. But ADHD… I absolutely balked. Why?

I feel that in popular media, ASD is portrayed as a diagnosis which is blameless. Autism support groups, parent groups, blogs, articles, and fundraising abound. There are supports for parents, and children can receive evidence-based treatment (at least in my province). We have specific screening tools in Ontario, for use at the 18 month well child visit, specifically to screen for ASD. And don't get me wrong – rightfully so. Early intervention works and should be promoted. Also, I'm NOT saying parents of children with ASD have it easy. Not at all.

Now I contrast with ADHD. I feel that ADHD is portrayed more as blame-able (i.e. on the parents) and less "real." ADHD is often the butt of jokes or widely derided as an "excuse" for poor behaviour. I do not know of any screening for ADHD that is done in routine well-child visits. I do not see articles or blogs about parenting a child with ADHD. I don't hear about ADHD research fundraising activities. I'm not saying they don't exist. But I do not think that they are as "out there" in popular media.

I am not a pediatrician, nor a psychiatrist, but I understand that both ASD and ADHD are considered neurodevelopmental disorders which arise through an interplay between genetics and "environment" (that lovely catchall for everything from prenatal exposure to substance X to pollutants to diet and so on). I do not think the medical community considers one or the other of these diagnoses to be the parents "fault." But I do think, that deep down (and I am ashamed to say this), I am afraid of my son being diagnosed with ADHD. Afraid of the looks. The blame. The rolled eyes. The label. Afraid of the consequences of starting him on medication – or not doing so. Afraid of possible misdiagnosis and its consequences. Afraid of grandparents finding out and having to deal with the inevitable questioning and doubt. Afraid that I will feel less sympathetic, more frustrated, less supported, more alone. Simply afraid.

I know that my child is who he is, despite any diagnosis or lack thereof. I know that one diagnosis is not "better" than any other. Diagnosis won't change who he is. I want to be clear that I am not saying I want or favour a certain diagnosis for my child. Nor am I implying any judgement of any of your children with these diagnoses, or you! Rather, I write to explore my own reaction to this situation, and to consider the reasons behind it, even though in doing so, I seem to have uncovered my own fears and biases.

What do you think of when you meet a child with ADHD? The child might be a patient, a niece or nephew, a classmate or friend of your child. How does that differ from your feelings when you meet a child with ASD? Are you more or less sympathetic? Understanding? Willing to forgive / accept / work with the child's behaviours?

I want to parent my child as best as I can. I want what we all want – I want him to feel loved, confident, and secure. I want him to thrive. I know that the letters won't change who he is. Despite my fears, I also know that the letters won't change who I see, as his mother: a very unique and special child with some incredible talents and some special challenges to work with. The question is: will the letters change what others see?

Tuesday, April 7, 2015


In the past, I've made several attempts to meditate regularly. But I've always failed for the following reasons:

-- meditation is boring

-- meditation is hard

-- I don't have enough free time... Or at least, I'd rather spend my free time doing something that isn't boring or hard

But I've decided to challenge myself. I keep reading about all these health benefits of meditation, so I'm gonna give it a fair try. I got the app for my phone, and I'm going to do it for 15 minutes at least four days a week for a month.  I'm posting my goal here with the Internet as my witness so that I will stick to it.

At the end of the month, I expect all my problems to be solved.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

A Teaching Moment

Genmedmom here. This was going to be a sweet little post about a teaching experience from my clinic yesterday. A patient presented with a classic clinical finding, and I knew that one of the other providers had a few students with them. So I asked the patient if I could bring in a student or two, and she cheerfully assented. It's been a very long time since I was involved in clinical instruction, and I enjoyed it.

I searched the web for a photo image or clip art to accompany this piece, something that illustrated a female doctor teaching medicine to students. I typed in all sorts of search phrases, but the vast majority of clipart or stock photos clearly depicting a doctor instructing medical students showed male doctors- and often with a lovely nurse standing by.

The best approximation of a female teaching physician that I could find was this (*and, this image is totally copyright of Disney Junior):

I mean, it's a good thing that Doc McStuffins exists, and that this image and the DVD it advertises exist. Not to imply a commercial plug; I must emphasize, I have no financial disclosures here! I just love the example she sets for little girls, all the pink and purple notwithstanding. She's a doctor, and her mom is too. They're African-american. The show is a hit. It's awesome.

So, why was this the only image I can find of a female doctor actively teaching medicine to students? This was mind-boggling to me. I needed to understand. I needed data to interpret; it's just my research fellowship training.

And I found data. According to the Kaiser Foundation, there are 893,851 practicing physicians in the United States, and 32% of those are women. The American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) has published a detailed breakdown of U.S. medical faculty, by rank, sex, race/ethnicity and specialty. Per their data for 2014 (which can be found at The AAMC website Reports page):

Of the 155,089 total U.S. medical faculty, 62% are male and 31% are female.

Of those that are at the higher ranks, as in professor or associate professor, 72% are male and 28% are female.

The breakdown by race/ ethnicity is frankly depressing, and I didn't even want to figure it out. For those of you that enjoy crunching numbers, have at it- there's tons of other good data in there as well.

It's clear that we need more women physician role models and teachers of medicine. So, what are the obstacles?

Well, in my case.... When I started by current position at a major academic medical center, I was involved in a medical school course geared towards fostering empathy and communication skills. I think every med school has these now, Patient/Doctor/Society type courses. But then I became pregnant with Babyboy, and realized I would be out on maternity leave for a chunk of the next session, so I never signed back up. Now, with two very young kids and enough to balance as it is, I'm not sure I want to take on the added responsibility of teaching...Not just right now.

I know my kids will get older, and I hope to get involved with teaching again someday. Likewise with medical volunteer work. I'm half Latina, I speak Spanish, and I've lived and worked in Latin America. At some point, I'd like to get re-involved in that work, as well as be a mentor for Latina students...Someday.

Meantime, I very much enjoyed interacting with our students over a case of erythema multiforme this week.

I'm curious what the doctor-moms out there think of these numbers. Do we need more female physicians teaching medicine? How about female minority physicians teaching medicine? And what do others think about Doc McStuffins?

Thursday, April 2, 2015

MiM Mail: How are your kids that grew up with a Mother in Medicine?

Hi MiM,

I am an M1 with a 7 month old baby. I was so excited to start but phew, it has kicked my butt. I have great childcare and a very supportive partner but I struggle with constantly feeling behind - behind on house work, on study, time with friends. And of course, my sweet daughter. I worry a lot - is she going to be ok? Will she still be strongly attached? Will I miss being home with her more when these "little years" have passed? I would love to hear your thoughts on these. Not so much "mom guilt" but for those whose children have grown up while they have had a career in medicine - how is your relationship with them ? How are they? Do you regret being gone? Any tips as to how to treasure the time you do have without being bogged down in the never-ending "to-do" list? I spend my days off with her trying to do laundry and purée baby food while longing to just play. Balance is hard and I'm feeling the tension.