For some of us, a negative first impression can close a door, never to be opened again. For Drs. Katie and Elliot Pressman, that could have been the end of the story, but it fortunately wasn’t. Now married, the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine class of 2020 alumni are thriving in their residencies. With Katie in her OB/Gyn residency and Elliot in his neurosurgery residency at USF Health, they have learned so much about themselves throughout their journey and what it takes to survive medical school, couples matching, and residency.
It all began the night before their first day of medical school orientation, when they were seated next to one another at a dinner. While Katie thought they did not “click,” Elliot thought he had made a great impression. Because they were both assigned to a five-person group as part of the Morsani College of Medicine’s collegia program, the dinner would not be the end of their time together. The program forced them to get to know one another and Elliot’s confidence and thoughtfulness won Katie over.
They’re not sure when they really started dating, but it was probably the night he showed up without his roommate to a movie to which she had invited them. They had a great time, and both went home to their respective roommates saying the same thing – “I think we just had a date, but I’m not sure.” From that night on, they continued to spend time together until one day, a couple of months into medical school, Katie was asked if she had a boyfriend and “yes” just came out. When she told Elliott, he said “okay,” and that was the end of any question as to what their relationship might be.
Being a couple in medical school worked well for them as they both enjoyed talking about their experiences, whether it was a test they took or a patient they had seen. The commonality of their experiences was comfortable. They recognize that not all students or physicians want to have a partner who is also in medicine as for some, it’s too much. For the Pressman's, sharing their passion for medicine is a positive and continued to be as they headed into residency, where they love talking about their days and understand the unpredictability of their schedules.
When asked what their biggest challenge has been, they both said that it was the stress of them couples matching into competitive specialties. They knew of other couples for whom the stress of trying to agree on geography and programs spelled the end of their relationship but the Pressman's took a pragmatic approach, talking early and often about their personal and career goals and agreeing to a few ground rules, which were to either be engaged or married if couples matching, focus on programs and areas that both liked, look at programs that have the fellowship Katie is interested in, and communicate directly and honestly. This approach got them through applications at 100 programs, in-person interviews at 30 of those, discussing rank lists over the phone, and essentially passing like ships in the night during the interview season and most of their fourth year of medical school. Katie says that that process was probably the most challenging time they have faced, but they look forward to the continued challenges of residency and whatever lies ahead. There is no doubt they will be amazing physicians.