The doctors are in
A local physician couple balances demanding specialty practices and family.
Drs. Ashwini and Atul Vaidya, two Tulsa specialty physicians who balance demanding practices with the rigor of everyday family life.
Given the demanding nature of a physician’s work, is it possible to balance career and family? Particularly when both spouses are doctors?
One local couple, Dr. Atul and Dr. Ashwini Vaidya, answers with a resounding “yes.”
With the help of friends, family and encouraging work environments, both are able to fulfill their dreams of helping people through medicine while raising a family.
“We both grew up in medical households,” Atul says. “Both of my parents were physicians. As much as you can understand it as a child, you can see how rewarding it is from a very early age.”
Ashwini also saw the positive impact of a career in medicine.
“We lived in small communities growing up, and we realized how much being a physician made our parents feel like an integral part of the community,” she says.
Ashwini and Atul met while attending medical school at the University of Oklahoma.
“We met when we were in our early 20s,” Ashwini says. The couple met at Ashwini’s medical school interview and began dating when she started classes. They married in 1999 after she graduated.
Realizing they both wanted to pursue specialties that involved patient interaction as well as surgical procedures, Ashwini completed her dermatology residency at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Atul received his ear, nose and throat specialty training at Loyola University in Chicago. It was persistence, hard work and a little bit of luck that both landed in Chicago, she says.
“I was definitely drawn toward surgery more, but I also like talking to people,” says Atul, who pursued a specialty where he could have both.
Ashwini also values patient interaction, in conjunction with clinical and surgical procedures, and enjoys the opportunity to see people of all ages in her field of dermatology. The stability of her schedule proved to be another attractive benefit when she chose her specialty.
Knowing early in their relationship that “Atul was going to have a more demanding schedule, we did think about those things,” she says. “Luckily, this is what I wanted to do.”
Fortunately, working at Tulsa Dermatology Clinic, Ashwini is able to maintain a stable, part-time schedule that allows her to spend more time with their two children, Mira (9) and Nikhil (7). Depending on the time of year, Ashwini says her kids are either at school, with their babysitter, at camps or with family when she’s at work.
“From my aspect, I’m pretty lucky to be in a practice that allows me to work part time,” Ashwini says.
As an ear, nose and throat specialist, Atul doesn’t have the same luxury. Eastern Oklahoma Ear, Nose and Throat takes calls at three major hospitals in town, which means at any moment he may have to drop what he’s doing and tend to an emergency.
“I would imagine my job puts a fair amount of stress on everybody,” Atul says. “It’s very unpredictable.”
Both agree it’s especially hard on the their children.
“It’s hard to plan stuff as a family when he has to go to an emergency,” Ashwini says. “It’s harder on the kids because they don’t always understand why he’s leaving.”
Although there are constant obstacles, both Ashwini and Atul work diligently to maintain a healthy balance of family and work.
“It’s a constant juggling act,” Atul says, “but we both feel you can never get your time back with your family.”
To compensate for the demands of their daily life, they love to travel and spend time with family and friends.
They acknowledge that having two physicians in the family requires a network of assistance. The couple credits the kindness of others as the key to their success.
“There are a couple of things that allow us to both be working and to have a good balance at home — one, having great work places that are understanding of family needs and two, we’ve had great people that have helped out with our kids,” Ashwini says. “We have family near by, and I think without those things it would’ve been incredibly hard.”
Finding a specialist
Medical specialists are doctors who have received extensive training in a particular specialty field by completing clinical practicum and advanced certification, if desired, in a specific area of medicine.
The American Board of Medical Specialties has 24 Member Boards, including the American Board of Dermatology and American Board of Otolaryngology (ear, nose and throat), that develop and implement educational and professional standards for certifying doctors in medical specialties, according to the ABMS website.
Finding a specialist can be confusing, especially since the stipulations and requirements from insurance companies vary. Fortunately, most hospitals in Tulsa offer assistance.
Hillcrest Healthcare Systems offers a physician referral line, according to Angela Peterson, Hillcrest’s media and public relations manager. A trained operator helps the caller find a primary care physician or specialist based on the patient’s needs and preferences, such as insurance type, location and languages spoken.
“These physician referral services are fantastic because they can help tailor the experience to exactly what the consumer needs,” says Joy McGill of St. John Health System media relations.
St. John’s patient referral and information hotline is called PulseLine. In addition to the call-in option, individuals can access the Pulseline page on St. John’s website for a full roster of physicians, classes, events and information.
Saint Francis also has a referral system that assists current and future patients.
“Not only can Saint Francis Health Link representatives help people find a physician or specialist, they can help them locate other services such as finding their closest Warren Clinic Urgent Care facility, a Saint Francis draw lab, imaging services and much more,” says Lauren Landwerlin of Saint Francis Health System’s communications department.
The referral line takes into consideration a patient’s location, a provider’s availability, access and providing a minimal wait time.
Oklahoma Surgical Hospital also has several ways for patients to connect with specialists, including a website form and a referral line, according to Carolyn Dodson, director of government affairs and strategic development for the hospital. “Patients don’t need to see a primary care physician before they see a specialist if they know what their chief complaint is,” says Dodson.
Hillcrest Healthcare Systems
Physician referral line:
918-579-3627(available 24 hours a day, seven days a week)
St. John PulseLine
918-744-0123 (7:30 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday)
Saint Francis Health Link
918-488-6688 (available 24 hours a day, seven days a week)
Oklahoma Surgical Hospital
Specialist referral line:
918-477-5900 (9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday)