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Medicine and Public Policy |

When Doctors Marry Doctors: A Survey Exploring the Professional and Family Lives of Young Physicians

Nancy W. Sobecks, MD; Amy C. Justice, MD, PhD; Susan Hinze, PhD; Heidi Taylor Chirayath, MA; Rebecca J. Lasek, PhD; Mary-Margaret Chren, MD; John Aucott, MD; Barbara Juknialis, MA; Richard Fortinsky, PhD; Stuart Youngner, MD; and C. Seth Landefeld, MD
[+] Article and Author Information

From Cleveland Veterans Affairs Medical Center, University Hospitals of Cleveland, and Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio; and San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California.


Ann Intern Med. 1999;130(4_Part_1):312-319. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-130-4-199902160-00017
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Background: Soon, half of all physicians may be married to other physicians (that is, in dual-doctor families). Little is known about how marriage to another physician affects physicians themselves.

Objective: To learn how physicians in dual-doctor families differ from other physicians in their professional and family lives and in their perceptions of career and family.

Design: Cross-sectional survey.

Setting: Two medical schools in Ohio.

Participants: A random sample of physicians from the classes of 1980 to 1990.

Measurements: Responses to a questionnaire on hours worked, income, number of children, child-rearing arrangements, and perceptions about work and family.

Results: Of 2000 eligible physicians, 1208 responded (752 men and 456 women). Twenty-two percent of male physicians and 44% of female physicians were married to physicians (P < 0.001). Men and women in dual-doctor families differed (P < 0.001) from other married physicians in key aspects of their professional and family lives: They earned less money, less often felt that their career took precedence over their spouse's career, and more often played a major role in child-rearing. These differences were greater for female physicians than for male physicians. Men and women in dual-doctor families were similar to other physicians in the frequency with which they achieved career goals and goals for their children and with which they felt conflict between professional and family roles. Marriage to another physician had distinct benefits (P < 0.001) for both men and women, including more frequent enjoyment from shared work interests and higher family incomes.

Conclusions: Men and women in dual-doctor families differed from other physicians in many aspects of their professional and family lives, but they achieved their career and family goals as frequently. These differences reflect personal choices that will increasingly affect the profession as more physicians marry physicians.

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