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Dr. Mom & Dad

Going it alone

Dr. Laurie Draughon
James, born August 1971
Jennifer, born April 1974

When Laurie Draughon, DMS '85, headed east to enter Dartmouth Medical School, she was recently divorced and had two children, then aged 10 and 7. She was one of 26 women in a class of 80 medical students at Dartmouth. After earning her M.D., she returned to her native California to do a residency in internal medicine at the University of California at San Francisco's Kaiser Foundation Hospital. She has been in private practice in California since then—first as part of a group practice and from 1999 to 2005 as a hospitalist. About a year ago, she started her own business as a "house-call doctor," specializing in coordinating the care of homebound patients.

How did you end up in medical school and at Dartmouth?
Laurie: I had always wanted to be a doctor, but my dad wouldn't help me with college. So I married my high school sweetheart and had my son when I was 18 and my daughter when I was 21. Then I convinced my husband that if anything happened to him, I wouldn't have a way of supporting myself, so we compromised on my going to nursing school. I got my associate's degree, and when I went on for my bachelor's degree we got divorced.

That's when I just decided to go for it and go to medical school. I wanted to get out of state and see something new. And I wanted to go to a good school and live in a good place for kids. Dartmouth was a great place and turned out to be good for all of us.

How did you manage two kids on your own during medical school?
Laurie: It was definitely tough at times, but I have always been pretty good at working with my environment. That was helpful because the neighbors around me were very helpful with watching the kids. I got them involved in afternoon sports and evening sports, too. They were on the swim team my second year, and they had to practice every evening until 7:00 p.m.

"It was definitely tough at times, but I have always been pretty good at working with my environment. . . . The neighbors around me were very helpful with watching the kids."

So I would study before that and then spend the evenings with them. Then I would get up at 3:00 a.m. and study while they were still sleeping. I never got more than four hours of sleep.

What about when you started clinical rotations in your third year?
Laurie: My mom came out and watched the kids during the more difficult rotations when I was going to be gone. And I managed to do most of surgery and ob-gyn in the summer months, when they could stay with their dad. Even though first and second years had been rigorous, I could have a tape recorder in class if I had to go to a concert for one of the kids. You have to know how to deal with what you have. Also, one thing my kids always knew was that if they really needed me for something, they still always were a priority. They knew they had to be more independent than other kids their age, but I was always there if there was some real crisis. Residency was tough, but since I did it near home in California, I had an agreement with their dad that when I had night call, he would take them. He helped out a lot.

Would you and your kids choose to do it all over again if you had the chance?
Laurie: I would do it all over again, and I think my kids would, too. I would definitely choose Dartmouth again. Even though the kids thought it was the longest few years of their life, they look back and think it was a really great experience. Both have been very successful and are just great people.

Were either of your children interested in going into medicine?
Laurie: Neither of them went into medicine, because I think they saw what a hard life it is. They both have been extremely successful, though. My daughter is a corporate controller for a software company. And my son individualizes computer programs for companies. He actually got his start doing that way back in Lyme Center, while I was in medical school, when he began doing programs on his Commodore 64.

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