MD VALENTINES: Duke Medicine couples open up about home, work life

Feb. 13, 2014 @ 04:28 PM

They hold clinic hours. They run research labs. They apply for grants or travel overseas to help treat rural patients. The stress, the long hours and patient demand come with the territory, but in addition to love, these couples share a mutual understanding.

Dr. Cameron Wolfe, infectious diseases
Dr. Sarah Wolfe, dermatology

Sarah was a Duke dermatology resident and Cameron was in the middle of his infectious diseases fellowship when they met at a Halloween party six years ago.
This was Cameron’s first big Halloween, having come from Australia. He was dressed as the Star Wars villain Darth Maul, complete with red and black face paint and billowing cloak.
“‘Cloak’ is a nice term for a cape,” Sarah said. She was dressed as a ladybug.
They started paging each other to coordinate coffee breaks on the Duke Hospital campus. They were married in 2011, in the middle of Sarah finishing up her dermatology training and board exams. Now they have an 8-month-old son, Callum.
“It forces us to put the books down and stop answering emails for a while,” Cameron said of family time.
Both share a desire to help others overseas. Cameron spent time after medical school visiting countries such as East Timor, Ethiopia and Rwanda, wading through different dialects and cultures to deliver breached babies and screen individuals for infectious diseases. Sarah also visited Botswana and Ethiopia about two years ago, where she helped treat patients with skin issues relating to HIV infection.
In the future, they may consider taking part in a physician exchange program in which they’ll work at a Rwandan hospital.
“That’s something that made us kind of click, was that shared interest in helping certain populations ... those who I kind of feel like have the most need,” Sarah said.

Dr. Gowthami M. Arepally, hematology
Dr. Rajendra Morey, psychiatry and behavioral sciences

Gow was a little concerned that she was about to go out on a date with a second-year medical student. She had already completed her residency training and was beginning her fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania. She didn’t want a younger boyfriend.
But when she and Raj met at a little Italian restaurant in southern Philly in 1995, not only did she realize they were the same age, but they were hitting it off.
She was passionate about her work, Raj said, “not only about the medicine but learning and understanding the world.”
Gow spends most of her time in her Duke lab, blaring music and working on experiments dealing with blood and blood diseases, and also sees patients once a week. Raj works with both Duke and the Durham VA Medical Center on studying the effects of traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Gow and Raj have learned how to complement each other, from dealing with a serious family illness to washing the dishes. They always set aside family time with their children, 13-year-old Karna and 8-year-old Gitanjali, and think that every day should be celebrated like it’s Valentine’s Day.
“Even at the time we were married, I don’t think I appreciated him to the depths that I do now,” Gow said, “which I think is a testament to the way we change over time but also how we never really get to know people until we spend years and years with them.”

Dr. Virginia Byers Kraus, rheumatology and immunology
Dr. William E. Kraus, cardiology

It all started with a train ride.
Bill was an astrophysics major at Harvard and Virginia was a Brown University freshman heading home for the holidays. They ended up sitting next to each other.
A blizzard was rolling in, and the train broke down in upstate New York. There was no electricity, no heat. Bill, always the planner, pulled out a bag of supplies for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
After that discussion-filled, 24-hour train ride, he called her again, despite Virginia’s hesitations, and their first date was set for Valentine’s Day, 1976.
They both decided they wanted to go to Duke medical school, and on their wedding day, Virginia found out she also was accepted by the university.
Bill and Virginia became one of the first couples simultaneously accepted by Duke School of Medicine. They’ve now been at Duke for 35 years, and they work a few doors down from each other at their office building along North Duke Street.
“He’s been so supportive and so wonderful through all these years, and when things are difficult, I know who to go to, and vice-versa,” she said.
They also share a research lab, where they’re thinking of collaborating together on their first big grant this year, having to do with personalized medicine and preventative care.
“I don’t have to go home and explain what the day was like and why,” Bill said. “A couple words and that’s it. And I think being able to appreciate each other’s successes is helpful.”
In her office, Virginia pointed to framed photos of their two children, 26-year-old Julia and 21-year-old Erik.
“Those are our greatest collaborations,” she said.