The Mrs. The Mommy. The M.D.: See It. Do It.
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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

See It. Do It.

Today, I have the pleasure of introducing you to a fellow wolverine (Go Blue!) and awesome medical school mama. Rhonda Douglas is from Southfield, Michigan, but currently attends medical school in Chicago. She is a single mom to a beautiful little girl and is currently pursuing residency training in anesthesia. Read below on how she does it all so gracefully!

Rhonda & her adorable daughter Reagan
Name: Rhonda Douglas

Medical School: University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine  

Graduation Year: 2014

Future (or Current) Specialty: Anesthesiology

How many children do you have and their ages: Reagan, 22 months

Did you do any post-undergraduate schooling or working before attending medical school?

After graduating from undergrad, I worked for 1 year in a basic science lab while applying to medical school.

Did you have any of your children during medical school? If so, how did you “plan” for it?

I discovered I was pregnant with Reagan literally one week before starting my third year clinical rotations. It was very much so unplanned (however not unwanted :-)). After finding out the news I quickly changed up a few things about my medical school curriculum. First, I changed the order of my clerkships I took so that I had the ones with “less time commitment” during the first six months of my pregnancy. Second, I decided to take a year off (during third year) so that I could not only with my new daughter, but also work on a research project and help run a summer program at my school for undergrad pre-meds. I basically did six months of third year, took a year off, then picked back up with the class below me & completed the final six months of third year.

What kind of childcare do you employ? (i.e. live-in nanny, family help, daycare, babysitters)

For the first 2 months, my mother came to live with me to help me with the new baby. I was also able to leave my baby out of state with her for six weeks during the summer while I ran the above mentioned summer program. I currently use a nanny share that I found through a childcare network in my neighborhood. She is very flexible and able to accommodate my crazy hospital hours.

What has been the biggest challenge to handling medical school (and/or practicing medicine) along with having children? How have you overcome it?

The biggest challenge for me is finding time to spend doing household chores and spending adult time with friends without feeling guilty about not being with my daughter. So far, I’ve been using the time that Reagan spends at her father’s house to squeeze in QT with my besties. I also just had to become more comfortable with bringing her with me to social events when appropriate.

Do you feel like your school/job is “flexible” to any family issues that may arise?

My school is extremely flexible with students. Essentially, they want everyone to succeed, so there are numerous resources and policies in place to make sure their students do just that. For example, during my year off, I only needed to fill out a 1-2 page form explaining my reasoning for taking time off and what I’ll be doing during that time. I was able to keep my full time student status (and therefore keep my health insurance, keep my loans in deferment, and was still eligible for financial aid).

For the medical students: How do you find time to study in addition to class time?

I get work done when she’s sleeping, whether it is practice questions during her naps or reading at night after bedtime. I also have to utilize my nanny to watch her while I study at times.

What is one item/strategy that you have that helps to make life easier as a mother and medical student/physician? (i.e. organizational method, electronic device, calendar tool, etc.)

Keeping Reagan on a pretty strict schedule helps me to plan my day so that I’m able to prioritize tasks week by week.

What kinds of things do you do to “relax”?

I usually keep a bottle of wine in my apartment so I can have a drink at night to help me wind down. I also previously enjoyed yoga (which I recently haven’t had time for) but plan on fitting that back into my schedule somehow.

Do you feel that your experience as a mother has made you a better doctor or future doctor? If so, how?

Most definitely! Being a mother is literally the hardest job in the world. Sometimes I’m breathing a sigh of relief because I have to leave her to go to the hospital! It teaches you patience, the value of planning, and for lack of a better term, it eliminates the fear of “getting your hands dirty.” I feel that I am a better leader now because I know how to take charge and simultaneously be sympathetic and caring to the team I’m leading.

What advice do you have to the women who want to pursue medicine with children?

It can be done! You have to be okay with leaving your child to go to work with the fact in mind that you are providing for your family. As a single mother, I know first hand how much easier it can be with two parents so if at all possible utilize your significant other! Also, know that there really is no “right time” to have children. Nothing can totally prepare you for it, however I think medical school is a good time to have one compared to residency. At least during medical school I had the option to take a year off. During residency you’ll most likely get the standard  six-week maternity leave off, or maybe three “research months” at the most.

Are you a physician or medical student mom who would like to share her story? Send me an email at
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