Real-Life Physician Family: Secrets to Surviving, Even Thriving During Medical School, Residency, and Beyond

Stacy Braddock Dunn is a native Texan, the proud wife of an Air Force ENT surgeon, and mother of four amazing children. After graduating from Garland High School in Garland, Texas, she attended the University of Oklahoma and pitched for OU Women's Softball on scholarship, while studying Health and Exercise Science. There she met and married her college sweetheart Joel D. Dunn, and launched into the adventure of a lifetime. In Stacy's book "Real-Life Physician Family" she candidly and fearlessly shares her experiences of that journey, with exuberance, honesty and infectious enthusiasm. Stacy takes us through her years of uncertainty, fear, and living near the poverty line, to the light at the end of the tunnel. She brings honest insight, hope, clarity, and wisdom to others traveling down a similar path. Stacy shows us that the impossible is never impossible, and leaves us with the powerful tools to navigate our own way successfully, whatever that journey holds.

About the Book:

Stacy Dunn, an Air Force ENT surgeon’s wife reflects on the trials and challenges medical families face during the rigorous training years of medical school and residency. Stacy married her college sweetheart, Joel, in the summer of 2006; Joel entered medical school in August of 2007; a month later the couple welcomed their first child into the world. The two exited Joel’s surgical residency in 2016 with four kids and debt-free. Stacy and Joel authentically open up about their family’s chaotic life during the training years and beyond in hopes of encouraging and equipping more medical families for success at home. When medical families win, so do our communities.

This book offers stories and practical insight for your medical journey, which cover:

  • conquering society's stereotypes
  • the nature of delayed gratification
  • the busy medical marriage
  • self-care & grace in the mess of training
  • raising kids in less than ideal circumstances
  • invaluable personal finance tips & tricks
  • success in the community
  • interviewing, match, negotiating
  • what to expect after training is over
  • and so much more on "all the things" the physician family faces day-to-day


It was the fall of 2007. I was finishing up my bachelor’s degree at the University of Oklahoma, about to have my first baby; my husband was beginning his first year of medical school. I scoured Barnes and Noble and Amazon for a book I could read about the medical training years. I found one on the medical marriage and put it in my cart. That’s it. I breathed a sigh of frustration. There was only one single book on the mysterious road that stretched ahead of me. Why weren’t there more? Statistics were not in my favor when it came to my marriage. It was obvious I needed all the help I could get. Truly, you don’t know what you don’t know. And at this naïve point in my life, I was zealous to gain the knowledge I needed to survive the training years as a supporting spouse. Besides, learning from other people’s experiences was--and continues to be--my favorite learning tool in life. By the end of residency, I would come to understand why authentic reading material was lacking in this area. The fact of the matter is, the Physician Family is generally an extremely busy lifestyle. I know my own family is constantly on the run in several different directions seven days a week. As I look at the other physician families we rub shoulders with on a week-to-week basis, they, too, are constantly spinning their wheels. It is challenging for these families to block the time out of their busy schedules to share deep perspective to those who are traveling the same road. Over coffee or dinner? Sure. A brief post online? That’s quick. However, there’s not likely to be much substance in a response due to time constraints. What physician family has time to answer post after post, in-depth? I don’t know those people. Truly, I’m not convinced that many medical families take the time to reflect on their own experiences. The training years are simply a whirlwind! And once you exit them, there is all the “catching up” on life the physician family feels they need to do, thanks to the delayed gratification nature of the job. We definitely felt this way.

In writing this book, something happened I did not expect. Over many discussions with Joel—now Doctor Dunn, a great clarity of our experiences began to surface. I never thought writing this book would enable me to have clear thinking over our chaotic first decade of marriage, but it did just that. This was a gift! You see, Dr. Dunn and I are not the same people we were when we entered into the training years. We have both grown exponentially through the trials we faced. Taking time to reflect made us much more grateful for how far we’ve truly come as individuals and as a family.

This book came together out of a heart of ministry for medical families walking a difficult path. I promised myself in Joel’s first year of medical school that I would do my part in equipping those behind me for this journey once we made it out of the training years. So here it is, a promise kept to myself: my personal experiences of the training years and life as a doctor’s wife vulnerably laid out for you to see in book form. Writing this book took a lot of grit on my part. I canceled work endeavors, put aside cleaning, gave up time with my family, ordered meals out when I could have cooked, hired a few sitters, and gave up a lot of “me” time in order to put this together. Why? Because families are the heartbeat of our communities. Supporting healthy marriages is time well spent! It is my desire to see more physician marriages excel through the training years and beyond. My ultimate goal in writing this book was to give medical families focus, confidence, clarity, and a sense of control in a volatile season in life.

I hope you are encouraged by this transparent book. I want to warn you not to compare my life to yours. Although in some ways, my life may make you feel very good about your own. Comparison is the thief of joy. Also, this book is not meant to tell you how your family should do things. That would be silly. Every family will look different from the next, given our unique gifts and callings. But, with that said, there are certain truths and principles that span all our differences. Those truths I convey in this book are the ones I hope you hold onto and implement in your own life.

Statistics are against your marriage, but I believe preparation and understanding are the keys to excellence. This includes the medical marriage. I have watched several of our close friends’ marriages disintegrate during our training years. It hurts my heart because these couples were compatible. And I do believe they dearly loved each other. Walking through the fire of the training years got the best of them. I have to wonder if they had been more educated about the lifestyle of the training years from the beginning, would that knowledge have taken some of the heat away and helped their families thrive? I didn’t have the wisdom to speak into my hurting friends’ lives then. I, too, was learning and going through the fire. But after living it, I certainly have taken away some golden nuggets of truth that make life much easier. I’m happy to share them! In fact, as I have stated before, I feel it is my duty to equip other medical families for success along this difficult, but doable, road. When the family wins, the physician wins. And then, in turn, our communities win. We are all reliant on each other’s success.

Table of Contents

1. Preface

2. Humble Beginnings

3. The Transition to Medical School

4. Building a Village

5. Medical Marriage

6. Diet and Exercise

7. Personal Finance

8. Choosing a Specialty (Joel D. Dunn, M.D.)

9. What Makes a Competitive Applicant? (Joel D. Dunn, M.D.)

10. Interviewing and the Match (Joel D. Dunn, M.D.)

11. The Transition to Residency

12. Live in the Here and Now

13. The Pressure

14. Raising Kids

15. Braiding our Lives Together Post-Residency

16. Moonlighting and Adventures in Montana

17. Negotiating for a Job

18. The End of the Tunnel

19. It’s How You Finish

20. The Complete Picture

21. A Request for a Book Review