Supporting the Student-Parent at the Larner College of Medicine

uvmmedicine blogger Jenna Conway '19
uvmmedicine blogger Jenna Conway ’19

I never thought I would raise a child through medical school; I had intended to focus solely on my studies. However, now that I am juggling both roles, I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. Being a mother allows me to stay grounded in love and the importance of family through the demanding and often overwhelming journey of medical school. Coming home to my family is a joy, and most days it refuels my energy to continue to work hard.

I hoped one day I could become a mom after residency. But after my two years of caring for children living in a Tanzanian orphanage, my partner and I decided to adopt a young boy.  We had grown very close to this child and wanted to provide him with a family, education, and a life of belonging and unconditional love—just as all children deserve. As one of my favorite artists Lauryn Hill wrote, “I knew his life deserved a chance/ But everybody told me to be smart/ Look at your career they said… use your head/ But instead I chose to use my heart.”

After another two years of living in Tanzania as a family, we returned to the U.S. and I was able to start medical school as a mom! Prior to starting school, I had no idea how challenging it would be to strive for strong academic and professional achievement while working hard to become a caring and attentive mom. The first months of my first year were quite a whirlwind– figuring out how to navigate a new city, studying after a five-year hiatus, building a new support community, and redefining our roles as partners and parents. Having the support of other parents at UVM proved to be invaluable. Prior to even arriving at UVM I extensively emailed a fellow parent about the logistics of being a parent and student. I came to rely on other med school parents for advice about effective study strategies, ‘balancing’ family time with UVM time, and ways to foster a sense of well-being. Parents in my class have also been an invaluable network of support simply by understanding each other’s common struggles such as nights of little sleep, meltdowns, and missing out on some of our children’s important events.  The caring and guidance I received from others inspired me to start a parent support group where med students who have children can come together to connect and share.  We currently hold parent support groups and family gatherings so parents can ask questions, share strategies, and discover that the trials we face are common to us all.

As a mom and future health care provider, my life is filled to the brim with opportunities, challenges, setbacks and celebrations. With the help of my fellow students, my journey is a joyous one.

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