June 27, 2017

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ACMC Medical Student Takes a Walk Down the Aisle: Planning a Wedding While Going to Medical School

Going to medical school and training to become a doctor is a time-consuming endeavor. Throw a wedding into the mix, and life gets even busier. At least for ACMC medical student Noah Retka. Noah is a third-year RPAP (Rural Physician Associate Program) student.

Growing up in LeSueur, Minn., Noah hadn’t planned on becoming a family medicine doctor. In fact, for his undergraduate degree, he studied chemistry at Saint Johns’s University—which was where he first met Tammy, his bride-to-be, although they didn’t know it at the time. Friends in undergrad, he went to Saint John’s and she to the College of Saint Benedict.

“We lost touch after college. She was busy in pharmacy school, and I was busy with my job in the bio-chemical genetics lab at Mayo Clinic.”

After a few years, he realized he wanted to dive deeper into the medical field and was accepted into medical school in Duluth. “When I first started college, I thought about pursuing medical school, but decided against it at the time. But after working at Mayo Clinic, I realized I craved the patient contact. I wanted to know what was happening with the patients I was helping, and then I made the big decision to take the next step,” Noah said. “It’s took me longer to come to the realization that being a doctor was what I wanted to do, but I had to get there on my own terms.”

Fate intervened again and Noah and Tammy reconnected the summer between his first and second year of medical school. As Noah puts it, “It’s been nothing but bliss ever since.” He describes his fiancé as very pretty, smart, funny and easy going. And he joking says he doesn’t want to say much more about how amazing his fiancé is, because he doesn’t want any competition when it comes to Tammy.

Between his time in clinic at ACMC and rounds at the hospital with his preceptor, family medicine physician Dr. Daniel S. Fuglestad (ACMC-Willmar), Noah is typically busy from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the week. After a quick workout, it’s time to study. It’s how he spends most nights. Unfortunately, a medical student’s schedule doesn’t leave Noah much time to spend with his fiancé, who works in St. Cloud as a pharmacist.

“Being a medical student and having a relationship can be hard. I am fortunate because Tammy really understands its demands. We typically only get to see one another on weekends, and even after the wedding, that won’t change until residency,” Noah said. “We saw each other while I was in my second year of medical school. We were three hours apart then. Now being only an hour away from one another, it seems like a real luxury.”

Noah and his fiance, Tammy, are planning a May 2013 wedding in Sartell, Minnesota.

First came friendship, then love and a proposal and a May 2013 wedding in Sartell, Minnesota.

“Planning a wedding is definitely hard work, but to be fair, Tammy has done most of the planning. I help out with whatever she needs me to do when I can. I’ve made sure to be there to help her with the big decisions like the date, the venue and who to invite. I definitely made sure to be there for the food tasting,” he chuckled.

After the big day, life will go back to their current “normal” for awhile. He’ll come back to Willmar to finish out his RPAP program, and she’ll stay in St. Cloud. Then for his fourth year of medical school, it’s back to Duluth for a few weeks before he’ll spend the next several months on rotations at hospitals across the Twin Cities. Both are looking forward to the stability that will come after he’s accepted into residency—a decision that won’t be made lightly.

“When you are single you get to make all the decisions yourself. But we’ll really have to make a decision that is right for us as a couple. We’ll apply at different residency programs that make sense for both of us – in locations where she can find a good job, too. She works as a home-infusion pharmacist so it’s not the same as a typical pharmacist, and jobs aren’t as common in that field. Next March, we’ll know where we are going. It will be the first time we’ll live in the same city since college, the first time we’ll live together.”

Ultimately, they want to live in a rural community, where they both can pursue their chosen fields. And Noah appreciates the “rural” experience ACMC has provided as a part of his education.

“It’s a great recruiting tool for ACMC to use. Students get to see first-hand what it’s like practicing in a smaller community. I think it shows a lot of us exactly what practicing in a community like Willmar would be like. We like the rural way of life—lack of traffic, the chance to get to know your neighbors and community, everything rural life has to offer.”

As the wedding bells ring and the couple says, “I do,” Noah and Tammy will begin the next chapter of their lives together with many exciting changes along the way.