Women in Medicine Q&A: Part Two
Featuring Theresa Rohr-Kirchgraber
(Editor’s Note: In a final nod to September’s Women in Medicine month, we are featuring another remarkable woman on the blog this week. If this reminds you of a woman in medicine that you think we should know about, we’d love to hear more. Please send your ideas to email@example.com)
Q: What’s your favorite thing about being a woman in medicine?
A: I love being a physician! It is a passion not a job and that is what makes it special. We are in a very unique club. One that only a select few can ever hope to enter and I consider it a blessing and a gift. I love walking in an exam room and not knowing what is in store for me. Each case can be challenging. The detective work to figure out what is really going on and how to help keeps me going. I bring my own experiences into the process – my background, cultural influences, and family influences.
It feels great to see the relief on a patient’s face when you can calm their fear, and help them and their families cope when there are difficult decisions to be made. What an awesome responsibility and obligation!
Explaining how the body works, why things are happening to them, and understanding how the mind and body work together in both health and disease, is fabulous. Very rarely, do we have our children look up to us with awe and respect (as teens and young adults) but when they bring their friends to me to find answers, or run to me when someone is injured on the field or the rink, their look of confidence that I can help is worth everything.
Q: Your least favorite thing?
A: Trying to get our patients to love themselves. When they are in a self-destructive path, I really have to work on motivational interviewing and try to get just one thing to change…small changes to get started before we get to the big changes. I can’t be in their home to make them choose properly, but I want them to hear my voice in their head.
Q: How are “home” duties distributed in your family? How does that work out?
A: We learned early on that we each are responsible for the household. The split is pretty even, but varies day to day. Last night, my husband had dinner on the table for me when I got home, which included a glass of wine and a lit candle. I always arranged for the babysitter when the kids were young, but he was always the one to get home in the evening on time. We always are making it flow and after 25 years, it has worked itself out very well. He still likes to make sure he lets me know when he does the laundry, but a complement or two for a job well done goes a long way.
Q: Are you part of a two-physician relationship? How do you handle household duties? If NOT part of a two-physician couple, what does your partner do, and, again, how do you handle household needs?
A: We met in medical school and he is a pathologist now in business and I am in internal medicine. We never had a list of chores, but he mostly took care of house problems and I dealt with the kids and inside chores. We hired a cleaning person long ago and though the kids are out of the house, we still have one. Best decision ever! We hired a yard service to keep the landscaping looking nice, though we mow our yard. We enjoy shopping together and take time each weekend to do the grocery shopping.
Q: If you have children, how have you and your partner handled child-related duties? Has the arrangement worked well?
A: As the kids grew, we hired a nanny (another fabulous decision). I took the morning “shift” and he took the afternoon. As a pathologist, he knew when his day ended; as an internist, I had some control over when my workday started but not so much about when it would end.
I usually did the legwork on finding sitters and nannies and arranging car pool, etc., but he did more than his fair share of driving to games, practices, etc. Our three kids played travel hockey plus multiple other activities. It made for a crazy life with both of us working full time, but we would not have changed it for anything. It was a great time!
Q: What advice would you have for young women in medicine about achieving a sustainable life/work balance?
A: Find the right spouse and don’t settle. If you have a question in your mind, get out of the relationship. Your spouse should be your best friend and cheerleader. Keep involved in women’s groups and learn from each other. I needed to meet with other moms, both physician moms and neighborhood moms. You just have to know you are not alone and you are not the “only mom that does not allow….”
Q: What has been your partner’s experience as the “significant other” of a physician?
A: He told some of my students recently that he loved it! We are a team and we love talking about our days. We use each other for advice. He calls me the “real doctor.”
Q: What do you feel will be the role of women in medicine in years to come?
A: We must continue to practice and make the position of a woman in medicine commonplace. To do this, we must find ways to be fulfilled and happy with our lives.
Theresa Rohr-Kirchgraber, MD is an associate professor of Medicine and Pediatrics at Indiana University. She is the executive director of the Indiana University National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health. Dr. Rohr-Kirchgraber also serves as a health and wellness expert for Sound Medicine, Public Radio’s health news magazine. She is a graduate of Cornell University College of Medicine, is board certified in Adolescent and Internal Medicine. Dr. Rohr-Kirchgraber has published articles on eating disorders in adults as well as various topics in Adolescent Medicine. She is happily married to Dr. Paul Kirchgraber and is the mother of three children.