Monday, July 31, 2017

MiM Mail: Residency applications and motherhood

Dear Mothers in Medicine,

I've been following your blog for a couple of years now, and every single post has worked for me as an inspiration to stay strong and fight for what I love, medicine. But today, I have found myself in a confusing position and I really need advice on a special subject, residency application and motherhood. I'm currently an MS4, yayy!! And as application day approaches, I have been working on my personal statement however, I'm encountering that one of my biggest assets (or so I feel) is being a mother. I have been advice by all my friends at medschool to not even mention my family, husband or 2 daughters (2yrs and 5 months). According to most people having a family will make me a less reliable resident than someone without strings attached. However, this is my story:

I married after college a few months before beginning medical school, my husband and I had been accepted to the same school, and things sounded great. During the first year we adapted to the new environment, developed our studying skills and set our expectations for matching one day.

Fast forward 1 year, and baby #1 came along. She was born during our 2nd year. We managed to fix our schedules for studying around the clock and created routines that allowed us to keep up with classes/exams while taking turns to care for our daughter. No LOA requested/no gaps, we were lucky enough that our baby#1 was born right before one break so we had 2 weeks off to adapt to our new family, and organize. Somehow, we survived and made it worked. Now, let's fast forward one more year and baby#2 came along (we wanted our daughter to have company as our families live across the country). Once again, we worked our way around it. I was able to get 1 week off during one of my rotations and resume the following monday. The attending was very understanding and seem surprised to see that I had decided it to keep going and again no LOA, no excuses given.

Today when I look back, I see that everything that I have done until this day has shaped me to who I am at this point. My desire to pursue medicine, and my determination to continue has remained strong while building the family that I always dreamt of. I always thought of medicine as a career choice not a life changer. As a mother, I feel that I learnt to be more organized and time efficient, I proved myself to be dedicated and goal oriented. So far we both remained on top of our class and have shown the same commitment since day one (I say we because this took teamwork). I took my step 1 and Step 2 CK/CS while breastfeeding/pumping because I wanted to continue to care for my daughters while working really hard to accomplish my goals. I wasn't willing to stay behind. Being a mother helped me connect with patients at more than one level, becoming very understanding of their concerns. I will applying to pediatrics because not only did I mentioned it on my personal statement when I applied to medical school as I always had a passion for peds but during these 4 yrs I realized that I'm drawn toward the field naturally. So I wonder, how can I write a "personal" statement of who I really am and why if I cannot mentioned how I became me and why I think I can be a good asset? I feel that a good physician should be able to show balance and commitment while remaining human and empathetic. Us moms, do this every day at home and on the field. Some people even believe in not even mention it during interviews but to be honest I am proud of being one and hope to become a great physician one day. Please any help or guidance. I am really confused right now.

Thanks in advance for all your help.

An MS4 hoping for the best!!


  1. I think if any specialty is open to hearing about motherhood it's peds. I would think it would be an asset - but I never applied for peds so I would hope that others would chime in. Having babies in residency was hard for me - but at least I got 8 weeks - I can't believe you took two then one for your kids - what a rock star but also I want to say screw the system!! It's not LOA it's freaking maternity leave and we need to make it a right.

    I agree having kids made me much more efficient with my time but I also had to be careful - there were attendings I could share kid stories with and many I had to play double agent with - like pretending I had no life outside residency. Strange, how so many consider having kids a weakness - when it really makes you so much stronger as a person. My vote is it's ok for peds - might actually be a viewed as a strength. I guess it would depend on the culture of the program. My path dept. admin definitely looked at kids in the negative - but only if you were female, which I thought of as a huge double standard. Good luck to you:)

  2. I think I am a much better pediatrician because I am a mother. I think it's an asset but you need to make sure that you focus on why being a doctor is a priority. Make sure to have several mentors including at least 2 male attendings review your essay before submission.

    Also while reading your post I was a bit taken aback that you didn't take more time off. 1 week?!? You mention repeatedly no LOA and I just wonder if you see a LOA as a weakness. Because it wouldn't be. I took an almost year LOA and even though I didn't graduate with my entry class I got to share amazing times with my baby. I would definitely suggest you not overly state you didn't take leave as that could be a red flag for programs and it was a red flag for me when reading your post. We caution new moms not to work out for 6 weeks. Many of us would caution that not taking any time when you are able to is unhealthy and not what we would encourage our patients to do. So please be careful about how and if you include that. Wishing you the best! Signed a happily part-time Peds Attending

  3. Whether it would be viewed as a negative probably depends on the program, but you probably don't want to be somewhere that is unsupportive anyway. I do think that you probably shouldn't make your family the primary thing that makes you special (I.e the main reason they should hire you), but if you have the grades and scores to back up your argument (I had two kids and still made aoa, for instance) that could show the residency that you aren't going to be a flake. That's really what they are trying to screen out, after all. When they ask you how you managed to do it, be prepared to explain in detail how that was possible, and how you'd do it as a resident too. Also.... it is possible some people will be off put by hearing you took only three weeks of maternity leave for your two babies. Not saying it's right, but you should be aware that bias exists. Good luck!

    1. Just reread that -- should have said (YOU had two kids and still made aoa). I did neither of those things, haha.

  4. I think it's fine to mention for a field like peds that is more family friendly. I wouldn't give it more than 1-2 sentences but totally fine to mention. I doubt it would count against you at most peds programs but you probably wouldn't want to be at those anyways.

    I'm in a (non-peds) family friendly field and mentioned my kid in one sentence of the hobbies (?) section of eras. At least one interviewer brought it up during each interview.

    Your short maternity leaves might be viewed as a red flag by some and I'd caution that you should still make it clear that you would be supportive of colleagues who took a more traditional (longer) leave if that was their choice.

  5. Dear Doctors,
    Thanks for taking the time to read and reply to my post. All your opinions are really helpful. I never knew that not having time off after pregnancies would have been portrayed as red flags, and I really never meant to emphasize the no LOA as something bad. I apologize if it seem that way. In reality, I only stated it on my post for the purpose of supporting the reason I view motherhood as an asset with or without LOA. I would have loved to have taken one, if I knew I could.

    One of the main reasons I didn't consider to stretch the time for graduation was due to our plan of applying for couples match. I never thought of mentioning anything about the pregnancies/maternity leave itself on my application, PS or during the interview unless the subject was brought up. I contemplated of implying motherhood itself as an asset on my PS without stating specifics.

    I see maternity leave as a blessing, and I wish I could have been lucky enough to have taken one, but unfortunately I thought that jeopardizing my chances of applying for couples match could have resulted in our family dividing (as a student it's difficult to know what to do at each moment in time, and I guess we do the best can with what we have). This is why I am very grateful to have found this blog a few years ago. It has helped me quite a lot, even now.

    I am very supportive of family union, and especially of the mom-baby bond. I did have friends who were able to take their maternity leave but fortunately their spouses were not on the field except for one of them whose husband was actually one year behind so in the end they got on track. In other words, I never encounter a medschool colleague that had been in my position.

    Thank you again for all the suggestions and especially for the eye opener of possible red flags. Maybe I would state it on my hobbies like Dr. Sophia said and just leave it out completely of everything else to avoid of it been viewed as something negative.

    The hopeful MS4!!

    1. I think I'm one of the older MiM's, but I knew someone who took a leave of absence for maternity leave and she was talked about as "weak." Having not had my kids yet I internalized this way of thinking. Unfortunately there is still this culture and thinking in med school and in residency. We have to walk a fine line to generate support when we are doing twice the work as mothers!! My red flag was mainly for you. I was hoping that you were able to design a track in order to have a lot of time at home -lighter workloads, etc. And if you have a third - know that you are deserving of time off with a full workload. Stay hopeful!

  6. hi! i am now a first year ed resident. i actually took a year off between ms3 and ms3 for my baby #2. I mentioned it in my additional info section bc i had to explain a loa. i think it was seen as an asset, for the most part. in my personal statement, it was all about my passion for emergency medicine but i added a line about how my time management and calm under pressure as a mom translates into me being a better physician. i spoke about my kids at every interview and im glad i did. im sure that some programs didnt rank me as highly because of my family. some of my "dream" programs had over 40 residents and none with kids- looking back im so grateful i didnt match there- but now, i am in an amazing program with a family friendly culture, half the residents are married and at least 3 other residents have kids. in the end it is all about fit, so be yourself! good luck!

  7. Thank you so much for sending in this email. I'm also an MS4 who took no time off after having a child in med school, and I never would have realized that was a red flag for readers. I thought continuing on after having my daughter (via c-section) showed a real can-do attitude, in the setting of limited options (my school essentially told me I could take a year off or nothing). I was planning on casually mentioning having a child second year in my personal statement along with a little patient anecdote about how it helped me bond with and inform patients on L&D.

    Anyways, thanks again, as I appreciate learning to be more cautious about how I speak about my lack of LOA!

  8. i just finished peds residency and chief residency and our program definitely viewed having kids as a neutral/positive and was supportive of residents taking 12 weeks if desired, though only 6 were paid)... so i think in that field you're fine :)

  9. I would echo the above posters, that if a programs sees you being a mom as a weakness, you probably don't want to go there. Being a mom is an asset! I struggled about mentioning my kids on my med school app, I ending up putting them in one of the side essays and not my PS, and they only came up with interviewers that were moms, which was great and drew me more to those schools. My guess is that the people who are telling you not to mention it probably are not parents. Best of luck! Please update us on your decision!


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