A worthwhile jugging act

From diapers to degrees: Parenting through medical school and residency

Medical school and residency are highly demanding. Adding the full-time responsibility of parenting only further complicates things. Two DOs share how they have successfully managed parenting through their medical training.


Embarking on the journey of medical education while navigating the responsibilities of parenthood can be a daunting task. In the fast-paced, demanding field of medicine, the rigors of medical training often collide with the joys of raising a family. Below, Yisroel Grabie, DO, and Amira Hassan, DO, share their unique journeys of balancing parenting with their medical training, and they also share their best tips for successfully navigating parenting during medical training.

Parenting through the rigors of medical education: A real balancing act by Yisroel Grabie, DO

When I started medical school as a father, I knew I would be traversing a road less traveled. While juggling parenthood and the rigorous demands of becoming a doctor is certainly challenging, this journey has shown me that it’s possible to not only survive but also thrive during this experience. I am currently a PGY-II internal medicine resident and have had much practice balancing my medical training with parenting my three children (ages 1, 4 and 7 years).

In addition to my story, my colleague, Amira Hassan, DO, shares her story of parenting during medical training below, and we worked together to provide a list of tips for other parents who are medical trainees.

The early stages: Undergraduate challenges and preparing for medical school

My journey as a parent-student began in my undergraduate years. I welcomed my first child during the winter of my senior year, a life event that shaped my path forward. Recognizing the need to support my growing family, I took a two-year hiatus between my undergraduate studies and medical school. During this period, I focused on gaining clinical experience and financial stability. I worked as a clinical research coordinator, a medical assistant and even an EMT on weekends. This not only provided financial support but also kept me closely connected to the medical field.

While preparing for the MCAT and applying to medical schools, I prioritized family-friendly locations and institutions supportive of student-parents. I shared my parenting experiences during interviews, not just to showcase my commitment but also to gauge the schools’ attitudes towards student-parents. Ultimately, I chose New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine (NYITCOM), a medical school with robust support systems for students like me, including a flexible lecture streaming platform that was invaluable, especially during unforeseen childcare emergencies.

Navigating medical school as a parent

Medical school, while challenging, was made more manageable through careful planning and support systems. I embraced every challenge, from the complexities of COVID-19 to welcoming a second child during my third year. Balancing parenthood and medical school required a fine-tuned schedule, prioritizing essential tasks and making time for family moments. Celebrating small victories, like treating my eldest to ice cream after each major exam or rotation, became a cherished ritual.

Light at the end of the tunnel

In the process of applying for residency, my strategy was centered on prestige within the context of proximity. I concentrated on local programs, and, fortunately, I matched to a position in my top-choice residency, which was conveniently located near my home. This close proximity has been a significant advantage, especially during demanding periods like long-call or night float rotations. Both my parents and my wife’s parents have been readily available to provide essential support during these times. Their involvement has been instrumental in enabling me to devote myself fully to both my educational pursuits and future career aspirations without compromising my family responsibilities.

Balancing parenthood and medical education: A personal journey by Amira Hassan, DO

Embarking on the challenging journey of medical education while navigating the responsibilities of parenthood presented a unique set of hurdles for me. From early-morning study sessions to securing a supportive environment during residency, my experience as a parent in the medical field has shaped both my personal and professional development. I am currently a second-year resident with two young girls ages 8 and 3 years. Below is my story along with the tips and tricks that have helped me along the way.

Early challenges and adaptations

At the outset of my preparation for the MCAT, I faced the reality of being the primary caregiver for my 1.5-year-old daughter. Recognizing the limitations of traditional study hours, I embraced early mornings and late nights to ensure uninterrupted focus. The introduction of daycare provided a crucial reprieve, allowing for more dedicated study time and clinical experience.

Navigating prejudices and embracing strengths

Advised by mentors to downplay my role as a mother during the application process, I chose a different path. During interviews, I proactively discussed my experience, seeking programs that acknowledged and supported the unique challenges faced by parent-students. This approach empowered me to select a medical school aligned with my values and family needs: Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine (TouroCOM).

The struggle for balance in medical school

Transitioning to medical school brought a new set of challenges and guilt associated with dividing time between studies and family. I sought solace and guidance from fellow parent-students, leading to the establishment of my COM’s Families in Medicine student group in 2018. This platform provided a supportive community and valuable insights from alumni on managing the dual responsibilities of parenthood and medical education.

Strategic decision-making in residency applications

Anticipating the challenges of residency with the addition of a second child during medical school, I approached residency applications strategically. Geographic considerations, program schedules and childcare support became pivotal factors in selecting a residency program that aligned with my personal and professional goals.

Parenting during residency

The transition to a demanding residency and working close to 70 hours per week underscored the importance of essential parenting skills. Efficiency, adaptability and a strong support system emerged as critical elements in achieving a semblance of work-life balance.

Going through medical school and starting residency as a parent has not only shaped my approach to education and work but has also highlighted the importance of a supportive partner and community to me. As I navigate the challenges of residency, I am grateful for the invaluable lessons learned through the intersection of parenthood and medical education, which continue to influence my success in both spheres. In some cases, being a parent allows me to understand my patients and their needs better and provide patients with the care they need.

Tips from Dr. Grabie and Dr. Hassan for parenting during medical school and residency

  1. Build a strong support network. Having reliable childcare and a supportive family network is invaluable. Our parents and in-laws played a pivotal role in providing childcare, especially during demanding periods.
  2. Prioritize time management. Juggling medical training and parenting requires efficient time management. Create a structured schedule but be flexible enough to accommodate the unexpected.
  3. Seek family-friendly programs. When selecting a medical school, residency or fellowship program, consider their policies and attitudes towards student-parents. Programs that offer flexibility, such as remote learning options or child-friendly study spaces, can be particularly beneficial.
  4. Communicate openly with faculty and peers. Be transparent about your responsibilities as a parent. Most faculty members and colleagues are understanding and can offer support or accommodations when needed.
  5. Practice self-care. Balancing parenting and medical training can be exhausting. Take care of your wellbeing by prioritizing adequate rest, exercise and leisure time to recharge.
  6. Make your family a part of your medical journey. Share your experiences and celebrate milestones together. This not only creates a supportive environment, but also instills the values of hard work and dedication in your children.
  7. Stay financially organized. Children are expensive and medical school can be expensive as well. Plan your finances carefully, considering the costs of both your education and your family needs. Look for scholarships and grants that may help defray the costs of your education.
  8. Embrace the learning experience. Remember that the skills you develop as a parent—patience, multitasking, empathy—are invaluable in your medical career.
Editor’s note: The views expressed in this article are the authors’ own and do not necessarily represent the views of The DO or the AOA.

Related reading:

The sacrifices women physicians make: Balancing a medical career and family

Tips for conquering parenting as a husband-and-wife DO team

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