Prescription for Success: Multitask!

Nancy Stidham Boutin '79, MD

Nancy Boutin’s younger daughter, Mallory, says it is impossible for her mother to do just one thing at a time.

Perhaps that is why Nancy and her husband (Rod Boutin CMC ’78) decided to have a baby between her third and fourth years in medical school. “People said this was the best time to do it, and that they’d be there to help,” she says.

She adds with a smile, “They lied.”

Nancy returned to work after six weeks of maternity leave and left her daughter, Erin, with her sister. It was tough. “I had to peel off rounds some times and go to the bathroom and cry.”

This was in 1982, a time, Nancy recalls, that was not friendly to mothers in med school. The resident-in-charge would often make her stay after hours. She needed to go to neonatal intensive care to use a breast pump. Now, it’s much easier. There are rooms for mothers to nurse at the same hospital where she did her residency.

“I was at the end of a long era where residency was boot camp — and proud of it,” she says. This has changed. Most young physicians she knows today have the attitude: “It’s a noble profession, but it’s not my life.” Even male doctors she knows are now opening up and giving reasons for leaving work early because of childcare issues.

Nancy had her second child three and a half years later, when she was a resident in radiation. For the first six weeks after giving birth, she took her daughter with her, carrying her in a small storage container, or bankers box. Later, the baby was in daycare.

Would she do anything differently? “Having a baby in med school was not the best timing,” Nancy says. “I missed out on some of her life.” However, Nancy is proud of the girls and how she and her husband raised them. She says: “I have two successful, well-balanced, capable daughters.”

A pre-med major at Scripps, Nancy earned her MD at Oregon Health & Science University, while Rod followed her and went to Lewis & Clark Law School, rather than be far away at Harvard.

During medical school, a random assignment for clinical work brought her to radiation oncology, where she found a sense of community and commitment among the patients and physicians who specialized in the field. Since then, she has been a leader — as medical director of Salem Cancer Institute, practicing physician, healthcare educator, and frequent speaker on healthcare issues throughout Oregon.

“Part of the changing face of medicine is that women are bringing traditionally female approaches to the workplace,” Nancy says. “While I consider myself a ’70s feminist, my way of contributing is in the traditional female mold: serving, building consensus, leading from the middle. I’ve gotten things done by nudging rather than blazing.”

She is still multitasking in a big way, in and out of medicine. She has taken on the managing editorship of the Los Angeles Review, a literary journal published by Red Hen Press in Southern California, and is a frequent contributor to various publications, including Scripps Magazine.

“I love learning new things,” she says.


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