Pre-Med/Biology major Dr. Shannon Carr delivers in Damariscotta
If you know someone who was born in Maine's Lincoln County in the past five years, chances are good that Dr. Shannon Carr, a pre-med/biology major at UMF, had a hand in the care of that pregnancy.
Carr, one of two obstetrician-gynecologists at the Women's Center at Miles, helps deliver some 200 babies each year at Miles Memorial Hospital in Damariscotta. Thus, Carr is never far from her pager.
"It's a fact. Ob-gyns are people who are up at night," says Carr, who - always ready to perform an emergency caesarean section - sleeps with scrubs neatly folded at her bedside when she pulls rotating call. "I know it takes me exactly four minutes to get to the hospital when I need to get there in a hurry."
During the normal workday, Carr sees pre-op and post-op patients, provides "well-women care" patients with routine annual examinations, and updates patient records with treatment notes. However, if there's a difficult delivery (perhaps a "fetal heart tracing that looks non-reassuring," she says) then all bets for normal are off.
"There's a lot of reaction going during the day," she says. "When I'm going to have lunch, I really can't think, 'I hope I won't get paged.'"
Although the days are less demanding now than during her residency at Maine Medical Center (where going without sleep for 36 hours wasn't unusual), she admits there are easier ways to make a living in medicine. But Carr enjoys the chance to help her patients "build their families" and to forge personal connections with women during times of crisis and celebration. "Especially in a rural practice, you have to make yourself accessible as a person to your patients," she says. "I think that's what people really want from their health-care provider."
Carr says she didn't always want to be a doctor. Before becoming an M.D. at the University of Vermont College of Medicine, she studied biomechanical engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. When her father and stepmother relocated to Augusta, she transferred to UMF for pre-med studies and soon found a mentor and medical-school advisor in Professor of Biology Mary Schwanke.
Carr, who has returned to UMF to discuss her career with other pre-med majors, says, "There's no way you can really know" the challenges of med school "until you're in it."
The same is true of practicing medicine. Asked about her most satisfying experiences, Carr recalls rushing to Miles in the middle of the night to treat a patient suffering from serious postpartum hemorrhaging.
"She just would not stop bleeding," she says. "And obstetric hemorrhaging at a small hospital is a scary thing. You don't have a big blood bank to draw on."
Carr stabilized her patient with an emergency surgical procedure she had never before performed.
"That was incredibly scary for me. But seeing her face and knowing she lived..." Carr says, trailing off. "She moved to Bar Harbor, but she still drives two-and-a-half hours to see me for her annual appointments. That's when you know you've made that human connection."