Student, future doctor, father

I became a dad during med school. Here’s how I survived.

Going to medical school while raising a family has been the most challenging accomplishment of my life. Here’s my advice for others.

Being a dad and succeeding in medical school is difficult.

My story begins fall semester during my first year of medical school. Our beautiful daughter was expected to arrive any day, and exams were happening every week.

Between getting her room ready, helping take care of my pregnant wife and excessive studying, I was already exhausted—without a newborn. I studied every available moment, knowing my daughter could come at any time.

A big decision

My wife went into labor Friday and our daughter, Elaine, arrived Saturday. We were faced with a decision: Should I take time off and be behind for a whole semester or take the test on Monday, with no sleep and only one amazing day with my new daughter?

Derek Pyne, OMS IV, reads to his children. (Photo provided by Derek Pyne, OMS IV)

Ultimately, I took the exam, scoring only 2% below average despite neither sleeping nor studying all weekend.

It’s an increasingly common story for contemporary dads, who change diapers, do housework and play an active role in their children’s lives. Not to devalue the difficulty of being a mom in medical school—I’m well aware that medical student mothers face unique challenges and struggles.

Words of wisdom

As a fourth-year medical student and a father of two, with the addition of our son, Isaiah, I offer the following advice for medical student parents.

  1. Prioritize: In medical school, you’re taught to pick your priorities and be OK with other things not meeting expectations. This is even more true for a parent in school. Reading to my kids every night and sitting down to eat dinner as a family became my priorities. Academically, I set a reasonable goal for my class rank and ended the first two years within 1% of that goal.
  2. Work as a family unit: Some weeks are worse than others, and my wife, who’s also a 7th-grade math teacher, will take on more than her fair share of work. But in my time off, I make sure to do laundry, dishes, and cook. I also change diapers, watch the kids and contribute to our little family. I am always on call for day care and sometimes stay home with a sick kid.
  3. Meet other medical school parents: One of my best friends in school is also a dad. Sometimes no one else will be able to understand your struggle. We have commiserated in the challenge and built each other up. Who else understands potty training like someone who just went through it? Or know what it’s like to be up multiple times during the night and still perform the next day?
  4. Take time to enjoy the moment: Some days just need to be days of rest. Take that time and enjoy the most important things in life, each other. Not every day needs to be filled with getting things done.

Going to medical school while raising a family has been the most challenging accomplishment of my life, and it has given me great memories and insight into what I can handle.

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