If you asked me 10 years ago, even 5 or 6 years ago, this wasn’t where I saw myself: living on Vancouver Island, the exact opposite end of the country from where I grew up, working as a family physician and married to another family physician, mother to three beautiful boys.
Ten years ago I was in my second year of medical school, still just figuring out what the whole medical education system was all about and sorting out where I saw myself fitting in. I knew I loved women’s health. In fact, I spent a month after my first year of medical school doing an OBGYN elective at Komfi Anoche teaching hospital in Ghana.
By the time I reached my last year of medical school and began the CaRMS matching process (that’s a whole blog post on it’s own!) I was torn between OBGYN and doing a Family Medicine residency with a focus on Women’s Health and Maternity. OBGYN offers a huge variety, from managing medically complex patients during pregnancy, doing on-call obstetrics, and gynecologic surgery. Family Medicine offered it’s own variety in a different way; managing people across their lifetimes, developing unique relationships as a primary care provider, with the added bonus of being able to shift your focus as your interests change throughout your career.
In the end, I went for OBGYN and matched to UBC for my training which was my first choice. They had a great program, strong in obstetrics, and I wanted to be closer to my brother and his family while I did my residency training. I was truly passionate about women’s health (and still am!) and at the time didn’t see myself settling down and having a family. I wasn’t against the idea of children, but thought it might not happen for me. I was 30 years old graduating medical school looking ahead at a 5 year residency training program at a minimum, seven years if I wanted to do an MFM fellowship.
It was at the end of my PGY-2 year (post-graduate year) of my OGBYN residency program in Vancouver, B.C. working crazy hours on call at BCWH, VGH and St. Paul’s Hospital when everything changed for me. My plan, up until that point, was to finish my residency and take it from there. I wasn’t certain what I wanted to do when I finished, but I had often dreamed of returning to Halifax and maybe doing a fellowship in MFM (Maternal Fetal Medicine).
And then it all changed. I started dating Hagen, my now husband, who was just finishing his family medicine residency. We had started our training together; he was a first year family medicine resident in Victoria where I had been placed to do my intern year as a Royal College resident. We were friends first and didn’t actually start dating until almost two years after we first met. And as soon as we started dating, I started looking at life much differently. Suddenly regularly working 80 to 100 hour weeks wasn’t my jam. Working 24 hour in-house call every other weekend? Not so much fun. I loved (and still do love) OB but realized I wanted to spend more time outside the hospital than inside. And I also realized that that was an ok thing to want. I mean, some people LOVE surgery and being a surgeon IS an amazing career, but I didn’t love it enough to make it worth the sacrifices you (and your family) have to make as a female surgeon. So I took the leap, jumped through the hoops and made the switch from OBGYN into Family Medicine. Despite having completed a general intern year and 18 months of specific OBGYN training I was only credited 6 months for that training so had to complete an additional 18 months in the Family Medicine program to obtain my certification (it’s officially a 24 month training program). In that 18 months, Hagen and I managed to produce two little boys and I was fortunate to take two 10 month maternity leaves.
So…after graduating from medical school in 2010, doing 2.5 years in the OBGYN training program, switching into Family Medicine and taking two 10 month maternity leaves I completed my training as a Family Physician in June of 2016. I’m currently on my third (and final!) maternity leave and prior to taking this leave was working as a locum physician doing general family practice, hospitalist medicine and maternity. When I return to work from this mat leave I am fortunate to be joining a group of amazing female GP maternity physicians at GROW Health here in Victoria and will primarily work there. I’m also doing some fellowship training in addictions and specifically perinatal addictions medicine so I plan to incorporate some of that into my work here in Victoria as well.
Do I miss OBGYN? Absolutely. Do I wish I were the one holding the scalpel when I scrub in to assist in a C/S? Definitely. Do I occasionally dream about going back and completing my residency training as an OBGYN when my kiddos are a bit older? Sure I do. And I’m lucky enough to have a husband who assures me if this is something I decide I want to do he would support me.
But for now, I’m happy. I have a satisfying career working with incredible colleagues and I and still get to focus on maternity and womens health. Additionally, there is fantastic opportunity for growth in my area of interest, perinatal addictions. I have an amazing husband who is also an incredible father and my best friend who not only supports but encourages me to do make time for myself whether that be going for a trail run or getting a pedicure. We have the time to focus on wellness and nutrition; to spend our time researching nutrition and creating healthy meal plans for our family. We have the time to travel, nothing extensive or exotic at this point, but we find the time to go away as a family camping, biking and hiking in Whistler and enjoying some sun in California. And then there is the family that we have created together.
I mean, look at those faces – who wouldn’t feel incredibly blessed to have brought those three amazing, funny, sweet, smart and wild boys into the world? So no, this absolutely wasn’t my plan but I can say I have never experienced love and happiness like this since I made the leap and I wouldn’t change a thing.