I cannot believe how quickly the day arrived, but after a month of writing manuscripts, organizing data, and creating a powerpoint, it was the morning of my PhD defense!! To maintain tradition, formality, and pay special tribute to the historical University of Pittsburgh Cathedral of Learning – students within the Clinical and Translational Science PhD defend our dissertation in a nationality room at the cathedral!
My parents drove out for the weekend to attend my presentation. They rolled in with a cooler full of congratulatory Maplewood Meats. Drew restored his stash of blueberry breakfast sausage, and I was able to replenish our summer supply of brats! We had a nice weekend at the house while Paul was on call. Curty finished a few house projects that were waiting for his handyman skills. The ladies went to the Waterfront to do some shopping for groceries and decorations. Taylor and Katie came over for dinner, and everyone was kind enough to allow me to practice my PhD talk multiple times as obligatory audience members.
Soon it was Monday morning and we were on our way to the Cathedral – many years of work were about to be summarized and condensed into a a thirty minute talk. It was wonderful to have my committee, family, friends, classmates and colleagues in the room while I defended. I definitely didn’t mind presenting to an audience of friendly and engaged faces.
While the adrenaline rush was calming down, my committee returned from their hallway deliberation and congratulated me on the completion of my PhD! Whooot!! It was a great feeling to be done! We celebrated with photos, a walk around the Hienz Chapel and a small quiet lunch at the porch.
I should really copy and paste my acknowledgments page here, but I think many people deserve a separate shout out for all of their help and assistance. First, I need to give a specific thank you to Dr. Binion, who was my primary research mentor in Gastroenterology. Dr. Binion has had a major influence on my research. He welcomed me to his group and challenged me to take on new research topics and ideas within the area of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). I have been working in this area since high school, as I have a personal interest in IBD – and was an honor to work with a mentor who driven to do research to serve his patients. People with IBD come from all over the region to seek care from Dr. Binion, which speaks to his personality and expertise!
I also have to thank all the other members of my committee – especially Dr. Smith and Dr. Ferris who worked closely with me on cost-effectiveness projects at the intersection of preventive dermatologic care for those with IBD. Dr. Smith is a superb mentor and clinician with far reaching expertise in modeling. Dr. Ferris is a dermatologist and extraordinary clinical researcher who is actively involved in many new and exciting projects. Her insight into patient flow, preventative medicine and screening within dermatology was invaluable. Finally, Dr. Switzer who lead my committee and Dr. Abebe who answered all of my detailed stats questions made the whole experience possible. I was so fortunate to have a supportive, diverse and well rounded committee, which made the journey towards my degree all the more rewarding!
Lastly – to my husband and son, who selflessly went on this journey with me. I cannot believe how much we’ve grown together. When I started the research portion of my combined MD/PhD program, we were buying our first house as a newly engaged couple. We then married, and had our son. Once our little light was born, I took on a whole new set of research projects, completely changing programs. It was a brave and exciting undertaking for which my husband was fully supportive. I am so grateful for his support. We then had to spend a year physically apart while he was training in Cleveland and finally reunited in Pittsburgh. Since his return, we bought a new home, and are looking forward to welcoming our second child! Though I will always remember my PhD as an academic endeavor, I cannot believe how much “life” we were able to fit into the past four years. I became a wife and a mom – and we have grown as a family. This time together has truly been a blessing. Thank you graduate school and thank you to all who came with me on this academic and personal journey!