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Brent Wiederhold and Deborah Lee, both IU School of Medicine Class of 2021 graduates, share their journey through medical school as a thriving couple.

The Perfect Match

Couple taking photo together outside - Titled Perfect Match

The Perfect Match

Brent Wiederhold and Deborah Lee, both IU School of Medicine Class of 2021 graduates, share their journey through medical school as a thriving couple.

It all started in Lyles Porter Hall during their first-year orientation. Brent sat at a desk in the corner, while Deb sat in the center of the classroom. Brent caught Deb's eye, and she motioned to him to come sit next to her. The rest is history, and after four years the happy couple is engaged and starting their residency training in Seattle.

Although Brent and Deb share many admirable qualities, their personalities complement each other in several ways.

According to Deb, “When you first meet Brent, he might seem reserved, but has a lot to share and is very social.” In contrast, Brent describes Deb as “reserved at first, but if you really get to know her, you see she is a goofy and lovable person.” Another difference between the two is how they plan. While Deb plans the “what” far in advance, Brent plans the “how” for short term goals.

Both Brent and Deb are first generation medical students, being first in their families to pursue the medical path. Brent attended undergraduate school at Indiana University and initially majored in biology, but later switched to biochemistry. On the other hand, Deb obtained her undergraduate degree in chemical engineering at Purdue University. During these years, Deb considered pursuing the pharmaceutical side of chemical engineering. However, after volunteering at a local hospital, she realized that direct patient contact would be a better fit for her. In addition, Deb felt as though many pharmaceutical companies placed a large emphasis on profit, and instead sought a more fulfilling career that always put people first.

Brent and Deb describe their experience at IU School of Medicine as challenging, yet rewarding. For Deb, the transition from engineering to medicine was difficult, in terms of studying strategies. “Engineering is more about the process and problem solving, whereas medicine is more about finding exact answers,” Deb explains.

The couple agrees that the third and fourth years of school were their favorites because of the transition from theoretical learning to practical learning in clinics. They both enjoyed being a part of a passionate team of nurses, physicians, residents, and students who are dedicated to supporting each other and their patients. “At first I thought that medical students would not be able to make a huge difference immediately,” Brent says. “But even when you are not a doctor yet, you can still have such a positive impact on patients' lives.”

In terms of the most valuable skills learned through their time at IU School of Medicine, the couple share two main takeaways.

First, Deb emphasizes the need for resilience. “You are going to fail and think that you are not good enough, but those are the moments where you learn and grow. Realize that you are not in this alone.”

Second, Brent highlights the importance of mindfulness and thoughtfulness. “Be mindful of the work you are doing and how you are doing it. Just because you are studying a lot does not mean that you are doing it right.”

After graduating from IU School of Medicine, Brent matched into Family Medicine at University of Washington Valley Medical Center, while Deb matched into Internal Medicine at the Virginia Mason Medical Center. When asked questions regarding their future residencies, both share their thoughts.

What do you like about your match/specialty?

Brent: I like the mindset of family medicine doctors. I feel like they embody the principle of mindfulness and care about the people that they work with. They think about the whole patient, not just the anatomy/physiology but also the factors that led to the development of the condition, the support that they have at home, financial factors, and transportation. Family medicine also covers such a breadth of topics. You are the first person to catch things before the patient goes downhill, and you are the person that can educate them.

Deb: I like the inpatient side (of internal medicine) because it is very fast paced. If you order a lab you get it that day, whereas in an outpatient you may have to wait around two weeks to get it back. I like to get things done as soon as I can, so it works well with my personality. I also like the problem solving aspect. You get the patient to where they want to be from the very beginning from when they are admitted from the ER all the way up to going home. I found this very fulfilling because you also get to do some education in the hospital. You talk to the patient about some of the lifestyle changes you can do and how to follow up with a family doctor. This makes the job more worthwhile.

What are you looking forward to most in your residencies?

Deb: I look forward to finding what I want to do in my life….for internal medicine there are so many options. I also am excited to be part of a dynamic team again where I feel like I am making a difference and have a purpose….(as well as) making lifelong friendships with co-interns and everyone in the hospital.

Brent: I am really looking forward to picking up the skills I need to be a real doctor. I am excited to be able to have my own patients and see them long term for the first time. Another thing is being able to make connections and friendships with a new group of residents in a new place. If we continue to like practicing here in Seattle, then we will likely stay after our residencies.

What are some of your career goals?

Brent: Something I need to be on the lookout for is finding a group, system, or maybe even a private practice that I really feel like I can get behind their mission. I feel like increasingly nowadays, people are being absorbed into large hospital systems and some of those you can tell they are not necessarily looking out for patients first, and instead are more profit focused. I want to find a place where, top to bottom, everyone cares about the important things, no matter how much money people at the top are making.

Deb: I want to train future residents at some point and be a part of a residency program where I can give advice to and mentor other future residents.

Enduring four years of medical school is quite a challenge in itself. On top of that, pursuing and growing a relationship may seem daunting. Brent and Deb share some keys to successfully managing a strenuous workload, while prioritizing time for your significant other. The couple argues that medical school relationships have its pros and cons. One pro is that both individuals share a mutual understanding of one another’s stress, workload, and experiences. With that being said, a con is that this mutual understanding can result in too much focus and obsession with medicine. To avoid this, Brent and Deb try to leave “medicine talk” at the door when spending time with each other.

The pair also emphasizes the importance of communication in a medical school relationship.

“Be honest with each other. If there is anything that bothers you, tell them upfront and don’t let things build up” Deb advises. Brent adds, “Be open to honest feedback and try not to be defensive. When you identify a problem, consider you two against the problem instead of against each other.”

When asked what advice they would give to other couples going through medical school, both highlight the need for patience and mutual understanding.

“You might not always know the motivation for someone to do something or the choices that they make, but you have to realize that everybody is living their own life and have had their own experiences, pressures, and priorities,” Brent says. “As much as you can, try to put yourself in their mindset and try to understand the things that move them, and that everyone is trying to do the best that they can.”

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.
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Rachel Young

Rachel Young is a Purdue University undergraduate student from Carmel, IN. She is currently working as a communications intern for the IU School of Medicine-West Lafayette for the summer of 2021. Rachel is studying business communication through the Brian Lamb School and hopes to pursue a master’s degree in Human Resources Management. Apart from academics, she is also a member of the Purdue University Women’s Swim Team.