A Publication of WTVP

We’ve talked about it on these pages before—a different type of family business wrapped around medicine. For some, these are decades-long relationships, with both their profession and each other.

So how do they make their medical marriages work?

Don and Dr. Mary Draeger Schultz met in 1981, when both were working at a local nursing home. They were in college at the time and dated for nine years—eight of those long-distance—while Mary was in medical school and residency in Chicago and Don was working as an Emergency Department nurse. Mary is now the director of the newborn nursery at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center and a clinical associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria (UICOMP), while Don is a professional nurse recruiter at OSF Saint Francis.

They have been married for 21 years and have three children—a son, 11, and two daughters, 16 and 18, the oldest of whom will follow in the family’s medical footsteps as a freshman in Bradley University’s nursing program this fall.

They don’t really see each other at work. Dr. Schultz thinks they have eaten lunch fewer than 10 times in the 12 years they’ve worked together at OSF Saint Francis. “We kind of joke that our being married is one of OSF Saint Francis’ best kept secrets—not because we keep it a secret, but because not many people see the two of us together at work, or make the connection between the two of us!” she jokes.

According to Dr. Schultz, there are both advantages and disadvantages to working in the same field. “On the one hand, we understand each other’s professions pretty well and can relate to one another’s job issues and stresses, and speak the same ‘lingo.’ There are aspects of both of our jobs which are highly confidential, and we do respect that part of each other’s professions—those topics don’t get discussed. The biggest disadvantage is that sometimes work seems to be 24/7, and sometimes we both need to be at work early or late, and have to make compromises to make sure that our family’s needs don’t get pushed aside for work conflicts.”

The Schultzes admit they both take work home with them but have managed to find a work-life balance: sometimes his job takes precedence, and sometimes hers does. “We really have worked hard as the kids have gotten older to make sure that one (if not both) of us can make it to their games and activities, and we keep working to find time for ourselves, too,” says Dr. Schultz. “We think it’s important for our children to see the value of hard work, and that marriage, like any other relationship, takes commitment and compromise. Hopefully they see that being lived out in front of them daily.”

Meanwhile, for the doctors Wise—Kent, a cardiologist at Heart- Care Midwest, and Joyce, a pediatric endocrinologist and associate professor of clinical pediatrics at UICOMP who retired in May, their careers and marriage have been intertwined from the beginning. They met in medical school in Chicago and were part of the first class to graduate from UICOMP in 1973. They will have been married 41 years in September and have two grown daughters.

They echo some of the same aspects as the Schultzes when it comes to the advantages of being married to someone in the same “business.” “I think you have a greater understanding of what the other person does, and you can share the same work experience,” says Joyce.

“I second that,” added Kent. “You can discuss medical issues— she has that perspective but can see it from the periphery. You have the ability to have an intelligent discussion and perhaps help problem-solve. For times of emotional stress, there’s someone to lean on.”

Do they think it’s a good or bad thing that each had a different medical specialty? “It’s a good thing,” says Kent. “Medicine is competitive. I don’t want her beating me!”

Like Don and Dr. Mary Schultz, the Wises’ work days don’t really cross. “We don’t see each other at work,” says Joyce. How that will change with her retirement remains to be seen. Joyce admits she will miss the “great group of people she works with” and is noncommittal on whether she wants her husband to join her in retirement (He doesn’t face that decision until the fall.) “I’m not sure,” she says with a laugh.

Even if Kent does head down the retirement road with Joyce, it seems their divergent interests, like their medical careers, will present different opportunities in the future. “I don’t have a green thumb, and she doesn’t have the good backswing!” iBi