• By Dana Sparks

Sharing Mayo Clinic: Difficult Diagnosis Interrupts Residency

July 17, 2016

vascular patient Natalie Ertz-Archambault at medical residency chart

Successfully finishing a medical residency is a significant milestone in any physician's career. But when Natalie Ertz-Archambault, M.D., graduated in June 2016 from the Internal Medicine Residency at Mayo Clinic's Arizona campus, the achievement felt particularly sweet.

"It was an incredible success for me, since I actually started my residency in 2012, completed four months, and then became too ill to work," she says. "At that time, I wasn't sure if I'd ever reach graduation."

Uncovering the cause of Natalie's illness took time and careful investigation. When she received a diagnosis, Natalie was surprised to learn she had vascular Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. This rare genetic disorder makes the body's hollow organs, including the blood vessels, digestive tract, bladder and uterus, fragile. It can lead to severe complications, such as blood vessel injuries, that require close monitoring.

After eight months of medical care, Natalie was able to resume her training as a resident physician. Looking back, she sees the experience has changed her, not only personally, but professionally as well.

"I returned to my residency knowing what it's like to be sick, what it's like to have a life-threatening illness, and, honestly, what it's like to have a rare disease that doctors know little about," Natalie says. "I also saw what a difference it can make when you have physicians who are willing to advocate for you, who don't feel limited to just their particular specialty. That's the kind of care I want to give to my own patients."  Read the rest of Natalie's story.

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This article originally appeared on the Sharing Mayo Clinic blog.

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