MARRIAGE & MEDICINE
PHYSICIAN COUPLES IN MEDICINE
AUTHOR Elizabeth Amin, MD
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
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