Louisville Medicine Volume 67, Issue 9 - Page 20

MARRIAGE & MEDICINE MARRIAGE AND MEDICINE: DUAL PHYSICIAN COUPLES AUTHORS Mary Helen Davis, MD and Al Martin, MD B oth marriage and a career in medicine are difficult endeavors that require hard work, perse- verance and commit- ment. We will have been married 42 years this August, having met in college, married shortly after graduation then attended medical school at different institutions (University of Louisville for Dr. Mary Helen Davis and University of Kentucky for Dr. Al Martin). We started out as a house divided. By the time we were graduated from medical school, we had managed to get Al transferred to UofL, have two children and acquire an additional 10 years of educational debt. We were in one of the last classes that had a small number of female students. The women comprised about 25% of the class of 1982, and we ended with six medical couples. Since those days, medical schools have obtained gender equity and medical marriages constitute about 40% in physicians, according to a recent AMA study. Dual physician couples and families face multiple challenges. However, these unions bring a remarkable amount of stability, with much 18 LOUISVILLE MEDICINE lower divorce rates than the general population, in fact lower than physicians with non-MD spouses, according to a 2019 AMA study. In addition to the challenges, there are clear advantages to the doctor-doctor relationship. The first advantage is that of conve- nience. Medical school and residency training are time consuming endeavors that make seeking and maintaining a new relationship challenging. This is a time you spend together with your peers and fellow students more than anyone else; it is just a bit easier when your personal and professional time overlap. Medicine is a very demanding and possessive partner. Having someone who understands that the relationship will always be a “threesome” is a definite advantage. This shared understanding of the experience greatly reduces interpersonal sensitivity and frustration over com- ing home late, or not at all, and missed dinners and family events. “Traumatic bonding” is often the most intense, and having the same shared bond of medical training has its own intensity. Managing the intensity of both medicine and marriage is a prerequisite for personal and professional success. After convenience, there are quite a few “C” words that one must remember and attend to regularly. These include communication, collaboration, coordination, com- promise, commitment, competing demands, contingency planning and complications—to name a few.