At the center of this burgeoning power couple’s success is the understanding of the importance of encouragement, balance, and support. These are words that repeatedly emerge as Drs. Vanessa and Burton Tabaac discuss their transition from single first-semester medical students to married graduates, and now residents at the beginning of what are sure to be long-lasting and impactful medical careers.
BUILDING A FOUNDATION
“It was initially daunting to move away from friends and family to attend an international medical school— but we are both so thankful we did,” said Burton. “At AUC, we not only found a temporary home away from home on a beautiful island, but we also found each other.”
As their medical studies advanced, so did the Tabaacs’ relationship. “It was clear early on that we were both committed to becoming physicians and doing whatever was needed to excel,” said Vanessa. “We were determined to support each other and jump over any hurdles that we encountered in order to reach our goals.”
The Tabaacs encouraged each other at each step along their medical school journey. Impressed by the pass rates of AUC students on important examinations such as the United States Medical Licensure Examinations® (USMLE), the Tabaacs made it their mission to strive. Burton recalls, “We studied and supported each other though the rigorous process of preparing for examinations, and after passing USMLE Step 1 we completed clinical rotations at teaching hospitals in New York.”
In April 2014, Vanessa and Burton graduated and entered the National Residency Matching Program’s® (NRMP) couples match as newlyweds.
OVERCOMING THE RESIDENCY HURDLE
“We were aware of many couples from AUC successfully going through this arduous process and coming out triumphant,” said Vanessa.
Unfortunately, this would not be the case for the Tabaacs. The results of the NRMP were bittersweet — Burton attained a neurology residency position at George Washington University. Vanessa was faced with reentering the Match℠ in 2015— a prospect which did not discourage this supportive determined couple.
“As Vanessa has proved time and time again, when there is a challenge it should be perceived as an opportunity to rise to the occasion,” said Burton. “It was clear that I would commit to improving my NRMP application and to reenter the Match as a stronger residency candidate,” Vanessa affirms.
To strengthen her application, Vanessa applied for an AUC-sponsored MD to MBA program at Devry University’s Keller Graduate School of Management. This program is one of several residency preparedness resources offered by the AUC’s Office of Student and Professional Development.
“I was accepted into this unique educational program and I am extremely grateful. This opportunity helped me to present myself as a more competitive applicant into the Match and also provided me with an expanded knowledge base that I can draw on as a physician for years to come,” she said.
In addition to earning her MBA, Vanessa co-authored two publications with Burton and routinely volunteered at a family medicine physician’s practice during her transitional year.
Their support of each other through this period paid off— in March 2015 Vanessa successfully attained a family medicine residency at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset in Somerville, NJ.
BALANCING DEMANDING CAREERS
The Tabaacs enjoy reminiscing on how far they have come and are excited by the opportunity to work and learn in their respective residency programs. Vanessa considers family medicine to be the perfect specialty for her, and Burton feels the same way about neurology.
“Family medicine is such a desirable profession because of the opportunity to motivate patients about the most important aspects of their lives— their overall health and wellbeing,” Vanessa says. Burton is intrigued by the possibility of advancing his field though research. “I believe that neurology is at the forefront of medicine today, especially with the level of research underway. Studies of the brain will potentially springboard advances in the medical field and have an impact for generations to come, “he explained.
While they are both eager to be exposed to new facets of their field, to make an impact on their patients, and to being contributing members of their residency programs, the Tabaacs are also mindful of a lesson learned in St Maarten — balance.
“Now that we’re away from the island and from the beautiful AUC campus, we often find ourselves cherishing the peace and quiet we encountered there. It is something we will cherish and will hold onto, especially as we navigate our new lives as physicians,” shared Burton.