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Side By Side

June 8, 2018

Couple works marriage into medical school and missions

When Alex and Shannon Hamilton started courses as members of the first class at Liberty University College of Osteopathic Medicine (LUCOM) in Fall 2014, neither of them had intentions of finding “the one.” They were focused on obtaining their medical degrees.
But at a game night to help the students become acquainted, things changed. After they all took turns sharing their dreams for the future, the two realized they had similar professional goals.

Photo by Megan Vaughn Photography

“I remember Shannon sharing her heart about wanting to do medical missions,” Alex said. “I thought, ‘Wow, not only is she pretty, but I love who she is and what she wants to accomplish.’ I wanted to do very similar things.”
The two began dating shortly after that and were married in July 2015.

For both graduates, deciding on attending LUCOM for their DO degree was an easy choice. Alex was already familiar with Liberty as a 2013 graduate of the pre-med program. Originally from Roanoke, Va., he wanted to continue his education in Central Virginia. Shannon, who came from Pennsylvania, heard about Liberty and LUCOM through fellow counselors at a Young Life camp. She said she quickly fell in love with the school after her admissions interview.

“My friends who had gone through medical school talked about what a strenuous four years it is,” Shannon said. “After meeting the Christian faculty at LUCOM, it was very apparent that this was the type of environment where I wanted to complete these very difficult four years.”

While Alex and Shannon’s own relationship grew at LUCOM, they said they gained a family there as well.

“The family at LUCOM is very special,” Shannon said. “I felt like the faculty and staff knew who we were as people. They would know details like our classmates’ kids’ names, what schools they went to, or where they lived or went to church.”

“Family isn’t a liability to your medical training here,” she added. “It’s rich and rewarding.”

While they weren’t sure at first how marriage would fit into their rigorous schedules as student-doctors, the Hamiltons learned to use it to their advantage in supporting one another.

In the early days of their marriage, the couple spent many hours going over lecture notes and studying for exams together.

“We speak the same language,” Shannon said. “If one of us came home and had a really bad day, like something happened in the operating room, it wasn’t completely foreign to us. I could imagine everything that could have happened when we talked about something.”

Alex added: “I didn’t have to explain to Shannon why I’m so tired or why I was late. That’s never a tension we had to face. We both understood the time it takes. That’s been a huge blessing.”

The Hamiltons were also able to live out their dream of working in medical missions.

Alex Hamilton continued his surgeon training while working with Samaritan’s Purse in Kenya.

They went on LUCOM’s annual Spring Break trip to Guatemala in 2016, where they partnered with Hope of Life International in operating community clinics. And last summer, the couple became the first student-doctors to complete an international rotation with Samaritan’s Purse. They worked alongside staff at Tenwek Hospital in Kenya.

“We were excited to be used by the Lord to make a path for other students called to medical missions to follow in,” Shannon said. “LUCOM’s commitment to medical outreach, both locally and internationally, is incredible, and we’re blessed to be a small part of it.”

Now the couple will begin a new chapter in Indianapolis, Ind., as they complete their residencies — the final piece of their training. Both will be working at St. Vincent Medical Center, where Alex will be in general surgery and Shannon will work in the pediatrics unit.

Shannon Hamilton worked in pediatrics while in Kenya.

As they look back at their time in Lynchburg, the couple feels more than prepared for the medical profession.
Alex recalled a time during his rotations when he witnessed an OB-GYN doctor who took an extra 30 minutes with a patient to understand her struggles and counsel her. He said he learned from that experience how medicine can also be a mission field anywhere.

“This career is a unique opportunity to be the hands and feet of Christ,” he said.

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