Being a physician can make relationships challenging—long hours, high stress, and the danger of burnout can tax even a strong marriage. But what happens when both spouses are physicians?
According to Noreen O’Shea, DO, FAAFP, and Thomas Benzoni, DO, FACEP, the challenges of their demanding careers are balanced by the understanding and support of being married to someone who knows exactly what it’s like to provide care in the emergency department. The couple met as undergraduates and got married shortly before Dr. Benzoni started medical school. About 40 years later, they both teach part-time at Des Moines University in Des Moines, Iowa, where Dr. O’Shea also practices at a federally qualified health center and Dr. Benzoni practices at local emergency departments, Level 1 to Level 4.
The couple recently sat down with ACEP Now Medical Editor in Chief Kevin Klauer, DO, EJD, FACEP, to discuss their experiences of being in a two-physician marriage.
KK: How long have you two been together?
NO: According to him, 50-plus years. We will be married 39 years in August.
KK: How did you two meet? Were you medical students?
TB: This goes back to Creighton University in a class on world hunger.
NO: We met when I was sophomore at Creighton. Everybody had to take a philosophy class, and so we were in a philosophy class on world hunger together.
TB: After our honeymoon, we could survive anything.
NO: We had a difficult honeymoon. We were camping on the Current River in southern Missouri and were attacked by horseflies and had a bout of Montezuma’s revenge.
TB: Yeah. Don’t give your wife salmonella poisoning on your honeymoon. That’s the only advice I’ll give you.
NO: We got married three weeks before he started medical school. And then I didn’t start medical school until a year after him.
KK: Have you both always practiced emergency medicine?
TB: That’s the only thing I know how to do. The chapter after Creighton is even more formative. Noreen was assigned with the Public Health Service to the Appalachian Mountains. We spent four years in Appalachia and built a hospital where there hadn’t been one.
NO: I’ve been practicing family medicine, but I have done, in order to keep my skills up, one or two days a month in the emergency department.