A magazine for friends of the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

What to Expect


A new mom pens a guide to parenting for her fellow med students.

When Shayla Durfey MD’19 ScM’19 got pregnant midway through her first year at the Warren Alpert Medical School, she immediately looked to the student handbook for guidelines for student parents. She found none.

That was surprising, Durfey says, since the medical student body is at least 50 percent women and she knew other students had had children. She turned to Assistant Dean for Student Affairs Jordan White, MD, MPH, thinking that together they could write a policy. “We realized that a policy cannot address every intersection of the curriculum and pregnancy,” Durfey says. “It’s not realistic.”

Instead, Durfey worked closely with White and got widespread input from Medical School administrators to write The AMS Pregnancy & Parenting Handbook. It explains policies around student leaves of absence, how the federal Title IX law protects students during and after pregnancy, and financial aid implications of taking time off. It also includes practical guidance on how to find a support system, postpartum care, and even listservs for sharing baby equipment with local physicians and medical student parents.

“We were very conscious of the language used throughout the handbook to accommodate fathers, adoptive parents, and transgender individuals, to reflect all types of experiences,” Durfey says.

In her research, Durfey found few other medical schools that offer guidance for student parents. She and White have shared the handbook with a national listserv of student affairs coordinators, to give them an outline that could be tailored to their specific schools. And Durfey is planning to continue her work with a research study on existing resources for student parents.

With the Medical School’s support, Durfey, who is a student in the dual-degree Primary Care-Population Medicine Program, spent a year in the Academic Scholars Program. The plan was successful all around: she researched and completed her master’s thesis, and had time to recover and spend time with her son, Gabriel, now almost 2.

What’s more, she says, “I realized I love doing research and I want to stay in academic medicine as a career.”


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