Illustration by Bob Scott
Amy and Michael Rose have been working together since the day they met. The two surgeons — Amy specializes in minimally invasive surgery and Michael in surgical oncology — met while studying at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Michael was an intern in general surgery and Amy was a second-year medical student.
“I spent a day shadowing the neurosurgery team and, as the intern, he was assigned to supervise me,” Amy says, noting she also worked with him when she started her surgical clerkship as a third-year medical student. “We worked well together. We began dating within a few weeks and were married one year later.”
They knew they wanted to practice medicine together. In 2004, when Surgical Associates of Richmond was looking for a single person to join the practice, the couple thought the opportunity seemed like a good fit for both of them and Surgical Associates agreed, Amy says, adding that working in the same practice is “how we actually get to see one another.”
They moved to Richmond from Biloxi, Mississippi, and began practicing at the company’s Johnston-Willis Hospital location. Like other married couples who work in the medical field, the Roses contend with hectic, sometimes out-of-sync schedules, but they also find advantages in having a partner who completely understands the nature of the job. So when the other spouse comes home late because of work or has to field a call about a patient on a day off, it’s not cause for conflict.
“More importantly, we can discuss [anonymously] difficult cases and get the other’s input and opinions,” Amy says, noting that work is always present in their conversations. “We are the type of surgeons who worry about patients, upcoming operations and completed operations all the time and continually want to be sure we are doing or have done all the best things for patients.”
At work, Amy and Michael don’t compete for cases because their practice areas don’t overlap, so they can “support each other completely,” Amy says, adding that most days they don’t ride to work together because of their schedules. “We do often ride together on Tuesdays, since that’s our afternoon off and we know we’ll finish at least close to the same time.”
On weekends, when they have time off, they enjoy cooking together and walking their dogs. “We try to do both of those together as often as we can,” Amy says. “And twice a year we fully get away to recharge and reconnect.”
Working together in the same profession makes them feel more connected, she adds. “Being surgeons defines us, and we intimately understand what that entails in a way that no one else can.”
Joseph P. Ornato and his wife, Mary Ann (Mimi) Peberdy, work at VCU Medical Center, but they seldom see each other during the day because of different time commitments and work schedules.
Ornato, who is professor and chairman of the VCU Department of Emergency Medicine, met Peberdy while in Philadelphia, her hometown, to give a lecture. Peberdy moved to Richmond in 1993 to join the faculty at VCU, where she is a professor of emergency medicine and medical director of the Advanced Resuscitation, Cooling Therapeutics and Intensive Care (ARCTIC) program, and they married in 1994.
“For the first couple of years after Mimi started working at VCU, our colleagues would often introduce her as Dr. Ornato’s wife,” he says. “Once everyone realized her exceptional capabilities, they started introducing me as Dr. Peberdy’s husband.”
When they’re at home, they try to minimize discussing anything work-related. “We focus on other interests and activities such as our dog, Lily the collie, photography and flying,” says Ornato, who is also a pilot.
Finding time away from the office can be difficult, but they try to go together on professional trips and often can add a day or two of vacation time before or after the business portion of the trip,” says Ornato, adding that Lily usually accompanies them on their travels.
The four children of dermatologists Eileen and Edward Kitces grew up listening to their parents frequently talk shop.
“It’s probably obnoxious, but our kids dealt with it,” Eileen says. “We talk about different problems and odd diseases we see. That’s been a benefit because it’s nice to bounce things off of each other. We learn from each other.”
The couple trained together at the Medical College of Virginia, now VCU Medical Center, and married in 1982, the same year that Eileen started Richmond Dermatology and Laser Specialists, where both practice. One of their children, Dr. Suzanne Kitces Peck, also works with them now.
Still, they aren’t in constant contact. “We only see each other when we have an office meeting,” Eileen says. “We drive in to work separately because I start earlier and finish earlier by an hour. I will go home and fix dinner. Then he comes home and we are in sync.”
When there are work frustrations, they can offer each other support without dwelling on the problems after hours.
“If a stressful thing happens at work, we will understand it better than someone else and be empathetic,” Edward says. “You can understand what the other person is going through.”
They both respect each other, and that goes a long way, they say. “The best part of working together is that I get to see her even if it’s at a distance during the day, and that is a real advantage,” Edward says.