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It takes a village

Family support and sacrifice get graduate through medical school — and her baby's first year

Part of a special feature celebrating the success of Memorial's graduates. This feature coincides with spring 2019 convocation ceremonies.

By Michelle Osmond

Starting a family, relying on family and practising with families.

For Janine Woodland-Flaherty, family was key during her journey through medical school.

A practising lawyer for six years before applying to the Faculty of Medicine’s MD program, Ms. Woodland-Flaherty knew the sacrifices the program would entail. What she didn’t expect was, after four years of hoping, to find herself pregnant during one of the most challenging times in her new educational path.

So, when her daughter Lucy was born in December 2016, she took eight months off and returned to finish her program with a different class.

“I had wanted her for so long. I was so happy when I found out. In my mind it was never a possibility that I might not make it work.”

Watch the video below to hear more about Ms. Woodland-Flaherty’s journey through medical school and balancing motherhood.

Living two passions

The Holyrood native grew up knowing she’d either study law or medicine.

She received early acceptance to law school in 2006 while completing a bachelor of science in psychology and, although she loved the study of law and some parts of the practice, there was something missing.

“I’m not someone who likes to wonder ‘what if.’ I figured I could be 40 and be a doctor or I could be 40 and still practising law, wondering if I had made the right choice. And I was going to be 40 either way, so I decided to come back,” she said with a laugh.

And, she says, there have never been any regrets.

In terms of managing having a baby during one of the busiest times in medical school, she says it was all about planning and organization. For example, when driving back and forth to Port Blandford every week for a rotation, Ms. Woodland-Flaherty would record herself reading her notes and listen while driving.

Loading her notes and text books on an iPad mini so she could access them during 3 a.m. feedings was yet another way she juggled her competing demands.

Balancing act

For Ms. Woodland-Flaherty, her success story is less about her efforts and more about the support from her family. She says she “just put in” the work so she could achieve her dream job and the sacrifices, both big and small, made by those around her.

“My retired parents watch my daughter every day,” she said.

“My in-laws are backup babysitters and frequent supper cookers. My husband delivered supper and Lucy to the hospital every night that I worked late, missed tons of basketball and Frisbee game, and spent months solo parenting. They did all this to support me in my dreams. I find that inspiring. It takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes a village to go to med school, so I guess I’m doubly lucky.”

Ms. Woodland-Flaherty will collect her doctor of medicine degree at the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre on Thursday, May 30. Her next journey will begin with the Memorial University family medicine residency program.

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