Manuel “Manny” Bramble and Teresa Gomez met before their first year of medical school, during Feinberg’s Second Look event for accepted medical school applicants. They started dating shortly thereafter and are now married and living in the San Francisco Bay Area, completing their residencies.
From how they first met, to their experience with the matching process, and how they achieve work life balance as the proud new parents of a baby boy, Manny and Teresa open up about their life together.
How did you meet each other?
Manny: We first met at Feinberg’s Second Look event during the spring of 2011. We had both been accepted to Feinberg and came to spend a weekend in Chicago to see if it would be a good fit for us. We were introduced at the beginning of the weekend by a mutual friend, who also ended up joining us at Feinberg.
Teresa: Along with other prospective underrepresented minority (URM) students, we spent the Second Look weekend hanging out and getting to know each other. Neither of us were set on moving to Chicago at the time -- he’s from Maryland and I am from California -- but we kept in touch over the next few months and to our surprise, we both showed up in Chicago that July!
What attracted you to Feinberg?
Manny: With regard to academics, it was a no brainer—Feinberg has an amazing reputation nationally, which was reinforced by their consistently impressive match lists. However, I was most struck by Feinberg’s commitment to diversity. During the weekend, Feinberg made a conscious effort to surround prospective students of color with students, physicians and instructors from underrepresented backgrounds. Not only this, but there was also a sizeable group of URM applicants, the two of us included, that hit it off from the very beginning. I was truly impressed, as this type of diversity had been a piece that had been conspicuously absent from other interviews at other schools. These factors, in addition to the vibrant Chicago nightlife, made Feinberg an easy decision, even if it was far from my parents’ home in Maryland.
Teresa: The diversity efforts at Northwestern were impressive. I was looking to attend an institution that valued diversity and not only talked about how important it was, but made it a point to show us that they meant it by connecting us with current URM students, faculty and staff. The Office of Diversity (especially Anita Munoz, Sunny Nakae and Dean Franklin!) put on a great event for URMs during our Second Look weekend and made it clear that they were there to support URM students like us. After sticking around home for college, I was personally looking forward to experiencing a new city. With strong academics, an awesome city, a diverse group of prospective and current URM students and a competitive financial aid package, Northwestern was an easy choice.
What was your Second Look experience like?
Manny: A blast! Teresa and I were part of a fairly large group of URM applicants that hit it off from the very beginning. Many of us ultimately ended up at Feinberg that summer (and remain friends today!). Together we had a great time experiencing what Chicago’s nightlife had to offer. I was also impressed by how the current Feinberg students had managed to remain social and maintain a healthy balance between their studies and the other hobbies they enjoyed prior to medical school. By the end of the weekend, our group had enjoyed our time together so much that we continued to stay in touch over the summer.
What was it like to be a couple during medical school?
Manny: While many describe medical school relationships as potential distractions, I really felt that Teresa was one of my strongest sources of support during one of the most challenging and demanding periods of my life. It is easy for medical students to become lost in lectures and textbooks, so I was extremely thankful to share the little free time we had. She helped me maintain my sense of balance, and she was a constant reminder that there was life outside of my medical studies. The fact that Chicago is such a youthful and exciting city made our time together even more meaningful. We experienced a little bit of everything together, from new cuisines, to concerts, to salsa dancing lessons. It was the perfect city for us to fall in love.
Teresa: To be honest, I was very hesitant to have a relationship with my classmate because of how complicated it could get if it didn’t work out. However, over the first couple of months, we spent a lot of time getting to know each other and naturally became each other’s biggest support person while in med school. As much as he is smart and driven, he is silly and a kid at heart. This helped keep me smiling even in the toughest times. I can’t imagine what med school would’ve been like without him.
Where did you both match? Tell us about that process.
Manny: I matched into Pediatrics at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland, and Teresa matched into Family Medicine at UCSF. Our programs ended up being a perfect fit for both of us, but this wasn’t obvious from the very beginning. Though we both enjoyed our time in the Midwest, we were both eager to be back near our families as medical school came to a close. Conversations about our rank list were challenging because our families are located on opposite coasts. My parents live in Maryland, while hers are in Los Angeles, making it hard to settle on what seemed like a fair compromise. We had established early on that we were unwilling to complete residency in different states. Our predicament led us to apply broadly to programs on both coasts as well as a handful in the Midwest. In the end, we settled on the Bay Area because it allowed me to be close to my aunts, and it is a short flight to LA. Coincidentally, both of our favorite programs happened to be in the Bay Area, so that part was an easy decision. We actually spent the most time determining the order of our 2nd and 3rd favorite program combinations because it was difficult to objectively assess the benefits of DC/MD vs. LA. All in all, we were fortunate enough to match in the Bay Area at our first-choice programs.
How have you adjusted to parenthood now that you’ve welcomed a new addition to your family?
Manny: Teresa and I both knew that we wanted to have several children, but we went back and forth regarding when we wanted to start our family. Even though we acknowledged that residency is both challenging and time consuming, we felt strongly that we did not want our career choice to dictate when and on what terms we were able to have children. We welcomed Julian on January 15, 2018 and we couldn’t be happier! However, our decision has definitely come at a cost. Sleep is generally hard to come by during residency and it certainly hasn’t been easier with a newborn child. In the end, I wouldn’t do things any differently, as I think our happiness well outweighs the new challenges. That said, I realize that this decision wouldn’t work for every couple.
Teresa: Starting a family while both of us were in residency was a daunting idea -- due to lack of time, money, sleep, etc. -- but we both felt strongly that we wanted to start a family sooner rather than later and didn’t want residency to be the reason why we would wait. Considering all things, having a baby during our third and final year of residency has been manageable thus far. My residency program’s support throughout this process is a big part of that, given that I was able to take 12 weeks of maternity leave, which is not something that every woman going through residency training is granted. I am so thankful to have the next couple of months off to spend time enjoying all the beautiful moments with my little guy.
How do you balance work life and home life (especially now that you are parents)?
Manny: Carefully! Teresa has managed to secure three months of leave, and I was able to schedule two weeks of overlapping vacation. We have also been fortunate to have the support of our families during Julian’s first month of life, which has been essential to us making this situation work. That said, it is extremely challenging having 100 percent of my time accounted for, whether I am at work or with the baby. As one can imagine, it has also been mentally difficult for me to take call or work a late shift when I know that Teresa is home alone with the baby. But we are getting by. We have been taking things step by step, with the understanding that we will have more control over our schedules once we graduate in July.
Teresa: As Manny mentioned, I am not currently working, but I imagine the transition back to work will be challenging!
What advice would you give other students who are considering marriage during medical school?
Manny: Be clear about your priorities. If you have found someone that you love, don’t let match decisions get in the way of being with them if that is what is important to you. But likewise, don’t let the artificial timeline of the match process force you into making a commitment that you aren’t ready for.
Teresa: Exactly what Manny said!
What was your most rewarding experience at Feinberg?
Manny: Graduating and getting married in the same weekend! That weekend remains the best weekend in my life to date. We were fortunate to spend the uncharacteristically warm/sunny weekend in Chicago with all of our closest family and friends.