Student advocates for other parents

By Darla Brown, Office of Communications

Second-Year Medical Student Elizabeth Oliver
Elizabeth Oliver, second-year medical student, with her 4-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter.

Medical school is a rigorous path for any student. As a parent of young children, life as a medical school student presents unique complications.

Elizabeth Oliver, second-year McGovern Medical School student, knows these challenges firsthand as the mother to two children, her 6-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son.

“The biggest challenge for me is consistent childcare, which I know will be even more challenging as I continue in my education,” she explained.  “COVID has presented unique challenges in that regard since nothing is ‘guaranteed.’  Classrooms close, kids get sick, last-minute babysitters are required (or babysitters get sick and can’t come), and we get COVID tests and visit the doctor often for colds.  There’s a lot of coordination and unknowns right now, but my husband and I have worked hard together and been able to juggle everything to make it work.”

Oliver recently was selected to join the national board of Parent Resources in Medical Education (PRIME), a new national equity and inclusion initiative. As the Resource Development Chair, Oliver will help develop resources and guides for parents at the national and institutional level.

“We are so proud that Elizabeth has accepted this leadership position on the PRIME national board,” said LaTanya Love, MD, dean of education, ad interim. “McGovern Medical School strives to be an inclusive environment for all of our students, including those who are parents. It is always nice to see our students advocate for others on a national level, and we look forward to hearing about all the great things that she will accomplish in this role.”

Inspired by Dana Suskind’s Parent Nation initiative, medical students at the University of Chicago created PRIME to fight for improved work-family balance. PRIME states that 1 out of 12 graduate medical students is a parent, and 40 percent of medical residents are parents or plan to become parents during training.

Oliver said she was encouraged to join PRIME to help others in her position. “One of the biggest challenges of medical school was actually getting to medical school,” she said.  “As a mom and a true non-traditional student, I didn’t know where to start when I began considering going back to school.  I want other parents at McGovern and beyond to know it can be done, and that there’s a network of support and encouragement for them to lean into as they dive into school.  I really feel like PRIME is an opportunity to do that, and I’m excited to see where it goes.”

Earning her bachelor of science degree in civil engineering from Texas A&M University, Oliver worked as a professional engineer before completing medical school prerequisites at the University of Virginia.  She is considering emergency medicine as a specialty, adding that she is excited to learn about more options during her third-year rotations.

Despite the obstacles that medical school may present, Oliver said the journey with a family is worth it.

“While it is a challenge to take care of tiny people while focusing on medicine, they have been a huge blessing to me in medical school,” she said. “Being a parent is one of the best and hardest jobs out there, and while it’s a challenge to be in medicine while raising kids, I’m enjoying the adventure and grateful for the opportunity to help other parents along and share some of my experiences with them.”