Mom, MD


  Wednesday, May 8, 2024
  Health, Around Campus, Student Spotlight

By Saira Cabrera

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – MAY 8, 2024 – For Natasha N. Quailes, a second-year medical student at the UTRGV School of Medicine, motherhood and medicine share many similarities, but they both require one significant trait: resilience.

This Mother's Day, Quailes, of San Juan, reflects on her dual role as a mother in medicine and ponders thriving in both.

"Mothers have a unique advantage in that we know what it's like to keep going when you haven't slept for more than a couple of hours and when you've gone months without a break," she said. "We have had to become resilient. I believe that, if you've been able to raise and support a child, you can do anything."

Both motherhood and medicine frequently require putting the needs of others before your own, she said.  

Many times, as Quailes has faced, it can result in sleep deprivation from nights spent comforting her son, Emeka, or studying and working to help improve healthcare in the region.

“But the exhaustion somehow subsides,” she said, “when I see my child happy and thriving.”

A SUPPORT SYSTEM

For medical students, mothers or not, the hours are long and the responsibilities, great. Quailes shared some advice she believes is essential to thriving in both roles: have a strong support system; utilize your time as efficiently as possible in both roles; and remember why you started.

By all accounts, medical school calls for sacrifices. But Quailes doesn't see her role as a medical mom as burdensome.

"Find the support system you'll need, whether that's your family or daycare or friends. My family is here, and their support throughout this journey is invaluable to me and Emeka," the Valley native said. "Build the community you need around you, and as a mom, you will be able to do the rest."

TIME EFFICIENCY IS KEY

Though having a strong support system and building the community you need around you is essential, both roles as a medical mom also require being efficient and smart with the time given.

In present-day society, Quailes said, multitasking is often a must, and doing too many things at once is expected, so being as efficient as possible is vital.  

"I do as much as I can while my son is in school, or even asleep, even 'doing' flashcards while watching my son practice," she said. "I also have my family close by. My parents and siblings are a big part of my support system. It has been a beautiful experience to watch my son grow up together with his cousins and be present wherever possible."

REMEMBER WHY YOU STARTED

For her, being an aspiring doctor has made her a better mother, and being a mother will make her a better doctor, she said, because she can care more deeply and empathically with not just her child, but also with patients.

"I sought a career in medicine because of my desire to help people and my love for science," Quailes said. "But the common thread in my career choices has been service to people and my love for my son."

As a San Juan native, she said, she understands the health disparities many face in the region. Remembering why she began a career in medicine and what she hopes to find at the end of her studies is a significant propeller as she pushes through motherhood and medicine.

"The Valley is my home. I was born and raised in San Juan. And as a Valley native, the greatest joy I receive is helping my community," she said. “I've worked to support many student-led initiatives and programs that helped improve healthcare here, and helped educate local students on how to apply and become a part of UTRGV School of Medicine. And I earnestly supported and helped fund-raise for our Student-Run Clinic, which provides free healthcare to uninsured patients living in rural areas."

DON'T STOP TRYING

As Quailes continues to fulfill her roles as a mother and medical student, she advises others in a similar situation not to fear. 

"Medical school while being a mom can be scary, but don't let fear or doubt stop you from trying," she said.

With two more years to go as a medical student, she hopes to remain in the Valley to continue her medical studies. She is interested in pursuing a specialty in dermatology, but no matter where she lands, she wants to stay in the Valley.

"My community has been an integral part of helping me become who I am today," she said. "My son is here; my family is here. And so it's only fitting to give back to what has given me so much already."

utrgv-som-quailes-i.jpg
As a medical mom, Natasha N. Quailes encourages other medical parents to have a support system. The support of her family has been "invaluable," and she encourages others in similar positions to always remember why they started their medical school journey. (Courtesy Photo)



ABOUT UTRGV

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.