Louisville Medicine Volume 67, Issue 9 - Page 24

MARRIAGE & MEDICINE PHYSICIAN COUPLES IN MEDICINE AUTHOR Elizabeth Amin, MD T his is not a subject to which I had paid much attention until it was proposed as the feature topic for the February issue of Louisville Medicine. It is true that I have been one half of a physi- cian couple for almost 47 years, and during that time have worked more or less closely with one or other of a handful of physician couples. Personal partnership status was simply not relevant when interacting with physician col- leagues. Now, I have had a little time to think about this, and some interesting observations and questions are popping into my head. The very fact that this topic was proposed for February, perhaps in conjunction with Valentine’s Day, raises an interesting proposition. Is Cupid’s arrow weightier or more potent than the professional commitments made by two physicians who have entered into a per- sonal partnership? Or is it perhaps more pragmatic that partnering allows two individuals to share a love of medicine, one which might seem off-putting or threatening to others? The first physician couple I encountered as a final year medical student, and subsequently a house officer, had become a living legend long before I was privileged to work with the two. She was a gynecologist, he a urologist, both with senior status in our med- ical school. Their expertise in their respective fields was widely acknowledged but for someone as low on the totem pole as I was, it was their unassuming command of uncomfortable situations 22 LOUISVILLE MEDICINE and their constant encouragement of trainees that endeared them to us. Each of them was a person of few words and apart from the fact that they were both physicians, they seemed to me to be the perfect couple. Their personal story was never discussed unless a kindly matron, or OR nurse or an all-knowing junior registrar felt it appropriate to tell us a little “just so that we knew.” They had been engaged to be married just before the start of WWII. He (Mr. H, as surgeons are designated in Britain) joined the army, became a POW and for reasons no one mentioned and perhaps did not know, went missing and for years was presumed dead. His former fiancée eventually married an orthopedic surgeon (“not a suitable match for her,” one OR nurse said). When Mr. H returned to Manchester, not well but certainly alive, the “unsuitable” orthopedic surgeon agreed to an immediate and very civilized divorce and our two mentors were lawfully married. The second physician couple I knew were my contemporaries. We were in the same class in medical school and graduated together. All our immediate friends knew that the two had been dating for a while, but it was quite a surprise to learn that they were going to be married before they started their respective house officer jobs. Some of us were not sure they were well-matched. She was a lot more serious than he. In fact, he was regarded as one of the class clowns but his class ranking each year told us there was a lot more to him than keeping the rest of us amused. They both became general practitioners and set up a combined practice just north of Manches- ter. For many years, they were the only two in the practice. They