SIU plays unique role in one family’s journey
from infertility to graduation
Written by Karen Carlson • Photography by Jason Johnson
In 1988, the aspects cover featured five babies piled in a crib. All were born to parents who suffered from infertility. With the help of SIU reproductive endocrinologists Phillip C. Galle, MD and Mary Ann McRae, MD, these tots were brought into the world.
The youngest of the pictured babies, a three-month-old girl in a lace-trimmed white dress, was named Elizabeth.
SIU not only helped Beth’s parents bring her to life; SIU has had a continual impact on Beth’s life, perhaps most notably this May, when she graduated from SIU School of Medicine.
The journey of her parents’ infertility was fraught with the physical and emotional issues that all infertile couples face. The treatments are daunting, expensive, time consuming and emotionally exhausting. SIU physicians Dr. Galle and Dr. McRae helped them through the process. Low progesterone was the cause of Sharon’s infertility. Numerous treatments led to numerous pregnancies - and numerous miscarriages.
But the SIU physicians and staff were great, and it was all worth it, says Beth’s mom, Sharon Hiatt. As a teacher and home day-care owner, the Hiatt house was always filled with children - but not their own. "Taking care of other people’s kids, it was really tough to know I couldn’t have one of my own," Sharon says. "Every month when I got my period it was like a death of a child - I grieved every month."
"Having a child meant fulfillment for us as a couple," adds her husband, Tom Hiatt, an Illinois state trooper.
After four difficult years of stressful treatments, Sharon became pregnant again. This time, the pregnancy was healthy, if not without anxiety. "It was such a relief when I could hold her," Sharon says. "We wanted her so badly. I was so scared with Beth’s pregnancy. I was a nervous wreck the whole time. I was scared to take medicines and even accidentally electro-shocked myself when I was pregnant."
"That’s why Beth is such a live wire," kids Tom.
Beth certainly has a sparkle – an engaging personality that she’s had since she was young.
As a toddler, Beth developed signs of a learning disability. Back the family went to SIU, where Glen Aylward, PhD, former division chief of Developmental/Behavioral Pediatrics (who retired this May) tested her. He confirmed a high IQ, but a processing disorder in addition to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Once Beth was diagnosed and treated, she progressed from special education classes to the gifted class.
Read the article "Making Dreams Come True" from aspects 11-2 siumed.edu/pubs/aspects/37-3/ pdf/makingdreams.pdf
As an adolescent, she again found herself at SIU School of Medicine, attending Brain Awareness Week, an annual event that gave middle school students a hands-on introduction into the workings of the brain.
Brain Awareness Week reinforced an inkling that Beth had first displayed as a toddler: an interest in science and medicine. "She had talked about being a doctor since she was little," her mom says.
"I considered teaching science," Beth says. "I battled between teaching science and becoming a physician." A college professor encouraged her to pursue medicine. "With academic medicine, I can do both," she asserts. She graduated in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in biology and Spanish from Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais.
Beth says she only considered SIU School of Medicine. "In college, I worked on study guides for tests. We’d talk through it in a group. SIU has the same sort of style - the self-directed learning - I liked that style more than the style of other medical schools I heard about from friends."
That interactive teaching style has served Beth well. "Everybody was helpful and studied together; classmates shared study guides they created. I’ve heard horror stories of students at other schools shredding notebooks and hiding notes. In other schools, students don’t know each other like we do here.
In Carbondale, the tutor rooms are all connected, so if you needed a break, you could join another tutor groups. SIU has been one of the least competitive situations among students that I’ve ever encountered."
Still, she faced some academic challenges while trying to keep her ADHD controlled. "I would start reading something about sickle cell get caught up in red blood cells, then cancer. It took a while to learn the system."
Despite early challenges, Beth has had a very successful education at SIU. After a happy graduation on May 17, she began a residency in internal medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin Milwaukee (MCW) in July. She plans to pursue a career in internal medicine. Wisconsin was her first choice, where she will join her boyfriend, Dave Houser, MD, Class of 2012, who is two years into his internal medicine residency at MCW.
"The best part of medical school was meeting Dave," she says. "But this last year of med school has been amazing. I’ve gotten to hang out with my classmates. I feel like I’ve got a lot of really close friends. We have one of the friendliest, most encouraging environments I’ve seen in a med school."
Beth also has enjoyed the commitment to community service at SIU School of Medicine. She helped with the Washington, Ill., tornado cleanup and worked at community clinics and the Salvation Army. As an undergraduate, Beth spent a semester in Ecuador and volunteered on a mission trip to Haiti and Costa Rica. She also assisted in a medical clinic in the Andes Mountains. She plans to pursue more mission work in her residency.
"You never know what’s going to happen to those children, where they are going - that’s what so amazing. We see her as a tiny baby in the magazine - we had no idea what she would do. She’s going to do phenomenal things." - Sharon Hiatt
Beth’s passion to help others doesn’t surprise her mother. "Beth always pushed herself; she’s very passionate about learning," Sharon says. "I feel like God has loaned her to me like Samuel in the Bible. We are extremely proud of her. She has worked hard, and with the ADHD she may have had to work harder than the average med student. It’s amazing how far she’s come."
As a medical student, Beth now understands her mother’s need to have a baby. "When I was on the peds floor - it’s hard to describe - you feel that ache when you hand the baby back to the parent. I can see myself having kids - someday. It’s a completion of you."
Blessed with Beth, the Hiatt’s bravely continued attempts to expand their family, taking a break from fertility treatments. Without the help of infertility specialists, Beth’s sister, Anna, was born in 1993 and has faced challenges similar to Beth. She also has a high IQ and ADHD. She faced additional medical problems and has recovered from congestive heart failure diagnosed as a baby. Anna is now an art student at Lincoln Land Community College with career aspirations in digital animation.
What advice would the Hiatts give to infertile couples? Sharon weighs in. "You’ve got to talk to people around you. You have to get your emotions out; don’t keep them in." The couple says they especially benefited from talking with other couples at the RESOLVE® support group."Support is key," Tom says. SIU Fertility and IVF Center hopes to get a RESOLVE® support group going again.
In May, the Hiatt’s watched Beth receive her MD diploma, and they couldn’t be prouder. "You never know what’s going to happen to those children, where they are going - that’s what so amazing," Sharon says. "We see her as a tiny baby in the magazine - we had no idea what she would do. She’s going to do phenomenal things."