Ophthalmic Superwoman: Resident, fellow, and mother of two

June 1, 2016

Remember enduring those seemingly endless years of residency and fellowship training? Now, imagine trying to earn that badge of honor while having a child. Well, two of them. Sonia Rana, MD, managed to do just that while still graduating on time.

Remember enduring those seemingly endless years of residency and fellowship training? The grueling pattern of long hours and endless clinics is something most surgeons compare with an ophthalmic version of boot camp. Now, imagine trying to earn that badge of honor while having a child. Well, two of them. Sonia Rana, MD, managed to do just that while still graduating on time.

After-hours: Vitreoretinal surgeon finds purpose in community service

Sonia Rana, MD

"Usually people who did not know me in training are shocked that I survived," said Dr. Rana, who is now a glaucoma and cataract specialist at Lansing Ophthalmology, East Lansing, MI. "I think there' s never really a good time to have kids." Not only was Dr. Rana in training during both of her pregnancies, she was also Chief Resident at Kresge Eye Institute, Wayne State University, Detroit.

She had her first child in 2011 while in her residency, and her second in 2014, the week before her fellowship began. Not wanting to delay her graduation, she figured out a way to have her children without taking extensive time off.

"I took three and a half weeks off each time," she explained, adding that she pooled her vacation time for the rest of the year in order to take time off for the births of her daughters.

Dr. Rana at her graduation from residency. She gave birth to her second daughter 11 days later, the week before her fellowship started.

While she could have taken maternity leave, she didn't want to risk her standing in her training programs. "It's the law," Dr. Rana said, referring to how she could have legally taken off 6 to 8 weeks, and possibly longer, with maternity leave, "but they can punish you in other ways," such as delaying her graduation.

After-hours: DJ ophthalmologists in surgery by day, mixing music by night

Because the application process for the training programs was so extensive and time consuming, she wanted to avoid the reapplication process at all costs.

How she managed

 

Dr. Rana credits her support system in her husband, parents, and friends for helping her get through training and her pregnancies." Those people who knew me in training were very supportive of my pregnancy," she said. "A lot of that may have had to do with the fact that I continued to 'pull my weight' and made my pregnancies something I dealt with out of my clinical responsibilities." Aside from being elected chief resident, Dr. Rana's peers also voted her as the best resident teacher, granting her the Golden Apple Award when she graduated.

That same type of goal-oriented mindset has stuck with Dr. Rana today.

Editorial: Why dopamine is my drug of choice

"One of my internal goals was to drop off or pick the kids up from school," she explained, adding that she drives the kids to school every morning before work.

Aside from an occasional late night in the operating room, she also has a routine of biking with her children everyday after dinner. Her older daughter rides her scooter, while Dr. Rana rides a bike with a carriage attached for her younger daughter.

Dr. Rana with her husband and two daughters.

"It's a way to work in exercise and family time," she said, adding that having activities outside of work that are enjoyable is a key way to be an effective employee. It's likely you wont be as effective or productive of an employee "if you're always at work or your brain is always at work."

Practice Management: Should you pay off debt or invest your money?

In regards to having children during fellowship or residency, she said people should not shy away from it. "I don't think it needs to be taboo," she said. "We are smart, capable people." For people who may be considering starting a family while in training, she encourages that it is definitely possible, as long as you continue to work hard and keep work at work. Dr. Rana said she hopes her drive to reach her goals will inspire her daughters. "I am doing my best for my family while still trying to pursue my own dreams and I hope one day that teaches my daughters great lessons about following their own ambitions," she said.

Putting it in view: Is it for patient convenience, or for the practice?

"I knew I wasn't cut out to be a stay at home mom and I love doing what I do so I know even though it's hard, it is definitely worth it," she concluded. "I'm helping people see, saving their vision, or preventing their blindness. [It] can't get much more meaningful than that!"