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Author: Bryan Shupe
The term physician partnership takes on whole new meaning when it’s the month of Valentine’s Day and love is in the air. Dual-doctor marriages are much more common today than you might realize, with American Medical Association (AMA) data showing that as many as 40 percent of physicians are married to a fellow doctor or healthcare professional. We spoke with several of our Bayhealth medical staff married couples and gained insight into their partnerships, how they unwind, and the separation of career priorities and family time.
Pursuing love and professional degrees
It was, coincidentally, a passion for medicine that brought all of these couples together. Internal Medicine Physician Zulehuma Rather, MD, and Colorectal and General Surgeon Assar Rather, MD, met in medical school in India and have been together ever since. Anesthesiologist Jesal Parikh, MD, and Interventional Cardiologist Sanjeev Patel, MD, had a similar start. They studied medicine together in India, and said they started out as best friends and are now on their 20th year of marriage.
Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon Nicholas Alcorn, DMD, recalls the day he first encountered his wife and fellow Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon Rhae Anna Riegel, DMD. “We met in dental school. I dropped all of my charts while approaching her the first time,” he said. “And our first date was on my birthday, so always easy to remember.”
A medical school romance blossomed for Hospitalists Angad Singh, MD, and Shilpa Odedra, MD, while at St. George’s University School of Medicine in Grenada, West Indies. They’ve been together ten years and were married two and a half years ago in New York. For Primary Care Physicians Andrea Arellano Vu, MD, and Kenny Vu, MD, it was a medical licensing examination review course where they first crossed paths and were propelled toward their future careers and planning a wedding within months.
Opposites attract or birds of a feather
Aside from having the same profession, how alike are the physicians that make up these medical marriages? Most of them share similar ideas on spending quality time together. In their downtime, Drs. Arellano Vu and Vu like to try new restaurants and agree on watching comedy shows together, even though they definitely consider themselves opposites in general. With three children and two dogs, they do physical activities together as a couple and as a family, including biking and running races, and playing tennis. In the work setting, they have the same long-term goals but different practicing habits. Their diverse interests and areas of expertise gel to benefit the team as they each take on their own sets of responsibilities in the office. As Dr. Arellano Vu described it, “We divide and conquer!”
Drs. Rather say they are a good example of opposites attract. “Just look at our height difference!” she said. Two decades and two children later, they are still making it work. She’s the primary cook in the family, which she added is a good thing in their household for all who like to eat. When the two physicians aren’t working, they both enjoy relaxing and watching a movie together.
Drs. Alcorn and Riegel see eye-to-eye on most things, but say they like being able to share unique opinions when talking about how they’d approach a clinical situation. They find this a benefit to being in practice together in that it can improve patient outcomes. At home, they sometimes tackle different duties. They have a three-year-old son and are expecting another baby any day now. “Rhae is a much better cook. I am a master of the microwave,” said Dr. Alcorn. While usually in sync, they say the primary exception is laundry. “We would always be wearing clothes pulled from the dryer if we did things her way,” he joked.
Finding a balance
Juggling job demands and busy home lives can be tough for any working families. Add in intense days packed with patient visits, surgeries or on call schedules for both spouses and it becomes even trickier. Drs. Parikh and Patel have clear rules when it comes to work and life balance and say that planning ahead, communication and support systems are critical to managing this. “When we are at work, we work, and when we are home, it’s family time,” said Dr. Parikh. “As they say ‘it takes a village’ and the village is our supporting parents and a great nanny who help us achieve this balance. We also work with wonderful colleagues who support work and life balance and understand that family needs sometimes take priority.”
Dr. Arellano Vu echoes the importance of preparation, particularly when weeks are hectic, and maintaining personal health at the same time. “It is doable to juggle a lot and still stay healthy, and planning is key. Don’t make being busy an excuse.”
Healthy lifestyles, healthy partnerships
For Drs. Parikh and Patel and their family, which includes two teenagers and a dog, they practice what they preach when it comes to wellness. This includes getting good sleep, making time for workouts to stay heart healthy, a plant-based diet, and “an attitude of gratitude.” Dr. Arellano Vu said she encourages her patients to plan ahead, and does the same for herself and her family. “I cook ahead in the weekend, pack things for the gym and make a regular schedule.”
When asked what one piece of advice Drs. Singh and Odedra have for maintaining a healthy relationship, Dr. Singh quipped, “She is always right!” The two frequently advise their patients to stay active and join the gym, and they make that a routine in their home lives as well.
Taking time to nurture the relationship is a necessary ingredient in any successful marriage. This might mean squeezing in regular dates or taking a vacation to refuel and take in fresh experiences together. Drs. Alcorn and Riegel say they love Caribbean cruises. “A date night for us may be as simple as a movie night at home or a quick getaway weekend exploring new places and trying new things,” said Drs. Parikh and Patel. And sometimes it’s the day to day moments that mean the most. “We mainly try to spend as much quality time together as we can,” the couple added.
Dr. Alcorn summed up fittingly what rings true for most couples. “It’s often the little things you come to love the most about your spouse—habits, nuances, and things only unique to them.”