At a time in everyone’s life, we come to find ourselves in a situation where the music stops, and we must go on.  The unfortunate truth about life is that the unexpected will happen. Some of us learn from it, some of us change because of it and some of us find our life’s calling because of it. The latter was the case for me.  After our dad picked us up from middle school, we spent that afternoon like we had every afternoon that month. We went to the oncology unit at the hospital, where my brother was admitted.



I remember him. I remember the man in the dark blue sarong the same way I remember the lines on back of my own hand. He was hunched over next to a column on a dirty platform at a railway station in Calcutta, India in the middle of the harsh summer sun. His hands were withered, his fingers and toes looked like tiny nubs, and he was completely malnourished and alone. He had opaque blue eyes, as if fog had taken place of his irises and pupils.



I studied insects in college; my favorite insects were the bees (I found them diligent and so helpful to humankind).  One of my favorite classes was about medical diseases caused by insects. My professors noticed my interest in the medical side of things and connected me with a professor who did clinical research. Our work focused on a clinical trial for children with intractable epilepsy and exposed me early on to patient care and patients.


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need a break. Sometimes the brain needs to power down and relax with some video games, a book, swimming with the kids, and dare we say – date night???

Although we are usually pretty good at building in the brain breaks, sometimes I slip (I/we - the non-medical spouse who schedules everything) a little and the significant other works three weeks in a row. It’s not good for anyone. The kids need parent-time; doc needs to decompress, and spouses’ ‘honey do’ list gets long. 

When we fail to take breaks, we fail to prioritize what’s important - our family, our sanity, and our happiness.  Whatever you do this summer - don’t forget to take a break.

For the couples who are both MDs – we’re not sure how you do it. We assume one of you has a little more down time or one of you has a travel bug and somehow gets the planning done. Or maybe there’s magic involved. We’re not sure…

In general, just thank your spouse for planning everything.  It’s not easy running a household or holding down your own career, but when you add on a vacation trip, the spouse is working overtime to make it work.  It’s not easy squeezing a square peg into a round hole, but they make it work for the love of family.

Our spouses keep long hours. They miss out on a lot of family time and kids’ extracurricular activities. So, when they manage to get vacation time, our spouses generally pack (or get packed for), walk out the door, and enjoy the vacation. They might do a little “Monday morning quarterbacking” on the vacation planning, but that goes with any marriage.

When you are first married, planning a vacation is simple and the only hindrance might be if you could afford the trip.  When the kids arrive, life gets a little hectic and the “where to go with infants and small kids” takes more thought. The logistics of how to get there, where to stay and what to pack gets even harder. Somehow, the lure of a week away with your spouse and your kids propel you to get the job done.

The actual planning of the vacation usually falls on the spouse who is not the physician. The who, what, when, where and how issues need to be discussed, but the details are pretty much left to you.

And as we all know, the devil is in  the details.

We try to plan 6 to 12 months in advance, but sometimes it takes even longer. The more people involved, the more calendars to consider. We have a calendar that shows the whole year and as soon as the new year calendar is out, everything goes on it. When are the kids out of school?  When are the school plays, performances, and projects? Don’t forget the science fair, academic meets, speeches, school parties,


graduations… where do all the extracurricular activities fall? Sports practices, games, conferences, music lessons and recitals, STEM activities, art, archery, and overnight camps, Girl Scout cookies, Boy Scout campouts, play dates, weekends with the extended family… is your head spinning yet?

The next challenge is you and your spouses’ calendar. If you both work in or out of the home, you have CE, CME, conferences, networking, political obligations, religious commitments, social calendars, physical-fitness priorities, personal medical appointments, volunteering, and the list goes on and on.

This last piece of the puzzle has been the hardest - coordinating time off with the other medical partners. The smaller the group, the harder it is to coordinate.

This is where planning early (and a good support staff at the office) really helps. If there’s a scheduling conflict, sometimes it can be adjusted, and priorities shifted. We personally try to set up at least a three or four-day weekend every other month.  Sometimes the hardest thing is just getting days down on the calendar when you don’t have anything up and coming. It feels silly to ask for days off when we have nothing planned, but the reality is sometimes you just