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Surgeon and Spouse: How One Navy Wife Balances Medicine and the Military

By Alex Snyder, Defense Media Activity

Dr. Anne Fabrizio is many things – a general surgical resident at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C., a foodie, and a dog mom. But her favorite role is that of wife to Navy Chief Mass Communication Specialist Elliott Fabrizio, who works for the Chief of Naval Personnel.

Anne, with her dog, Ragnar. Dog mom is just one of the many titles Anne has. (Photos courtesy of Anne Fabrizio)

Anne was already in medical school when she and Elliott met in 2012 on a group whitewater rafting trip, but she said her hectic schedule and commitments didn’t bother him, as he also frequently traveled as a photographer for members of Navy leadership.

From the beginning, “both Elliott and I have had a strong respect for the work the other does. Elliott has been nothing but supportive of my professional pursuits,” said Anne. “We can have odd hours, but with careful planning and time management, we use the time we have together to the best use possible.”

Elliott is a Navy Chief Mass Communication Specialist. Although their jobs may seem vastly different, Elliott says he regularly draws inspiration from Anne’s work ethic and dedication.

That mutual respect and appreciation for the other’s career makes their relationship all the more rewarding, said Elliott, who noted that he often draws inspiration from Anne’s dedication.

“My wife and I share the same title in our respective careers: Chief. She’s a chief of surgical residency, and I’m a Navy Chief,” he said. “The things that she has to deal with as a surgeon rival any challenges I’ve come up against. She works extremely long hours, performs incredibly complicated procedures, saves lives and sometimes must console families when they get the worst news anyone can ever receive. She really is my hero; one of the people I truly look to for inspiration.”

When they’re not working, the couple regularly travel, camp, hike and visit museums and renowned restaurants, ensuring their somewhat limited time together is special.

Getting ‘Practice’

Anne, who grew up in Seattle, was always interested in science and completed her undergrad at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“When I was finishing up my undergrad at MIT, I started to really think about how I wanted to apply my skills and knowledge to make a difference,” said Anne. “I started out doing research with patients who had neurodegenerative disorders and found that I really enjoyed that interaction with people in a medical context. So I decided to apply to medical school.”

Once in medical school, Anne says she fell in love with surgery. For the past seven years, Anne has been completing her medical residency and a research fellowship. Next year, she will be participating in a clinical fellowship in colorectal surgery.

“It’s a privilege to be such an intimate part of people’s lives,” said Anne.

Military Life

According to the Military Family Life Project, 10 percent of military spouses report having a master’s degree, MBA or similar professional degree. It’s almost equal to what the Census Bureau reports for all Americans – proving that military spouses, who often face geographic interruptions and deployments, still manage to earn higher education degrees at about the same pace as their non-military affiliated peers.

Motivations may differ. But much of what drives spouses to school is simple economics: the Department of Defense reports that 85 percent of military spouses need to work to help support their families financially. And yet for others, like Anne, their careers are also about helping others.

“I’m constantly challenged by my work. Every day and every patient is different,” said Anne. “Because of my job, I get to put my mind and my technical skills toward improving the lives of people who are often at some of the lowest points in their life. You don’t really get that opportunity in too many other fields. It’s really special.”

Anne (back right) is a surgeon in Washington, D.C. She said she’s always been interest in STEM fields, so medicine was an easy choice.

Although Anne works at a civilian hospital, she said that being around military medicine has made her appreciate the care services provide to their members and their families.

“Having direct experience with the military where healthcare is provided to everyone really puts into stark comparison the large segment of the American population that doesn’t have access to care,” said Anne. “People shouldn’t have to suffer or die because of fears about who is paying the bill.”

Another aspect of military life Anne appreciates is the close network of friends she and Elliott have made through his service.

“The military has been a family to both of us. It’s been a great opportunity to meet people from very different backgrounds, but who at the same time have a shared experience,” she said.

That doesn’t mean that being married to the military isn’t without its challenges though, said Anne.

Anne and Elliott have been married for over two years.

“With my hectic work schedule, working long hours and often weekends and holidays, I find it hard to sometimes live up to what is expected from a “supportive spouse,” she said. “I just can’t be at a lot of events. But we’re very supportive of each other and I find that a good sense of humor can also help us deal with whatever life throws at us.”

Elliott is quick to say that despite her schedule, he has always felt supported by Anne and is grateful for her partnership.

“When people casually ask what my wife does, I think the last thing they expect me to say is ‘Oh, she’s a surgeon,” said Elliott. “Yet, with all the challenges she faces daily as a medical doctor, she still takes her role as a military spouse seriously. She embraces military culture, from our traditions to our lifestyle. While we share the career title of chief, we also equally share the title of ‘spouse’. My role as a spouse is one that I take seriously too. I couldn’t do what I do without her, and if she could say the same, I don’t think there would be any higher accolade I could receive. I’m incredibly proud of her, her commitment to medicine and just as in love as ever!”

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