During their residency at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, hospitalist Margaret Fang, MD, MPH, FHM, and her friends often talked about who they might want to marry: someone completely outside of the medical field? A violinist, perhaps? But when she interviewed for a faculty position at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF), she met hospitalist Bradley Sharpe, MD, SFHM, then the chief resident in the Department of Medicine.
They married in 2010 and currently work as associate professors in the Department of Medicine at UCSF Medical Center—Margaret as a clinician-investigator and Brad as a clinician-educator and administrator. “I find that [being married to a hospitalist] makes many aspects of communication easier because you have a shared language,” she says.
A common language, a partner who “gets it” if you’re on service 16 days straight, a shared passion for the hospitalist movement: These are the advantages of being married to a fellow hospitalist, say five dual hospitalist couples.
“It is wonderful having a partner who understands where I’m coming from if I do have a rough day,” says Elizabeth “Liz” Gundersen, MD, FHM, who in 2004 tied the knot with hospitalist Jasen Gundersen, MD, MBA, CPE, SFHM.
Heather Wark, MD, who is married to SHM cofounder Win Whitcomb, MD, MHM, seconds that notion. “You don’t have to start from the beginning with anything,” says Dr. Wark, who works as a hospitalist (SNFist), at Farren Care Center, a skilled nursing facility in Turners Falls, Mass. “You can just launch right into whatever the crisis of the day is, and your partner completely understands.”
By and large, the advantages of marrying someone in the same profession outweigh the disadvantages, as a survey of female family physicians recently showed.1 But with those advantages come challenges. Among them:
- Aligning career and relationship goals;
- Juggling demanding schedules; and
- Carving out relationship and family time.
Threading through these issues requires transparent communication, flexibility, and mutual respect, according to these couples.
Liz Gundersen recently resigned her position as associate chief of the Division of Hospital Medicine at the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Medical School in Worcester, Mass. The reason? Jasen accepted a new job. As many hospitalists before them have done, the Gundersens pulled up roots and moved across the country, as Jasen started his new job as chief medical officer with TeamHealth Hospital Medicine in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
“It was a pretty stressful job change,” Jasen says. Following the job offer from TeamHealth, the Gundersens spent “a couple of months” weighing all of their options. “My taking the job was a great promotion for me,” he says, “but Liz also had the opportunity for a great promotion at UMass. In the end, the decision came down to the fact that it was a great opportunity for me and a great opportunity for us, as a couple, to do something new. And I think we weathered it pretty well.”
Liz, who is in the midst of securing her credentials to work in Florida, agrees. She is continuing to work with UMass long-distance, completing the physician schedule and training the new scheduler.