An Einstein Love Story

Perfect Match at Einstein Proves to Be Kismet

The graduation of Joy and Keith Hazleton from medical school on May 29, 2013 offers an amazing Einstein love story, aided indirectly by a baseball team sometimes referred to as "the Amazings."

Reflecting on the circumstances that led to meeting her husband, Joy Hazleton said, "Sometimes I think about what life would have been like if I had stuck with my original decisions and things had gone any differently. I definitely wouldn’t have met Keith and we wouldn’t have our incredible daughter."

Keith and Joy Hazleton with their daughter Fiona
Keith and Joy Hazleton with their daughter Fiona
The once-aspiring horror novelist decided to explore a career in healthcare after watching her dad battle cancer and her grandmother fight an uphill battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

Volunteering at a psychiatric hospital and taking night classes in psychology, the Colorado native fortified her interest in medicine and decided to enter an M.D.-Ph.D. program right out of college. Einstein’s location and reputation appealed to her most.

"I felt that Einstein would provide me with a good understanding of all types of cultures and the social inequities affecting medical care in the Bronx," she said.

Ms. Hazleton also believed that Einstein’s well-established and uniquely integrated Medical Science Training Program (MSTP) would best prepare her to become a true physician-scientist.

But it almost wasn’t meant to be.

"We have our MSTP students back for a second look in March and, if possible, we try to have them all come on the same day," said Dr. Myles Akabas, director of the MSTP at Einstein. "Because Joy was running a symposium at that time and wouldn’t be able to return then, she decided to accept an offer to Baylor."

But then fate intervened.

Chance Meeting Sets Up Chance Meeting

During spring training for the 2005 baseball season, Joy’s mother, who ran the kitchen at the New York Mets’ minor league facility in Port St. Lucie, met Dr. Akabas’ wife, who serves as a nutrition consultant for the team. One evening, the two decided to go to dinner — completely unaware of the unusual connection they shared.

When that connection became apparent, Dr. Akabas called her husband and a separate second visit to Einstein was arranged for Joy. As part of the interview process, the MSTP director arranged a lunch for the-then-Ms. Gibson with a few Einstein students.

Keith Hazleton was among those students. "I ended up playing matchmaker," said Dr. Akabas of his unwitting inclusion of Keith in the group.

Mr. Hazleton was already into year one of the MSTP when he met his future wife. The science enthusiast from Oregon had chosen Einstein because the school allowed him to make a tough decision a little easier — focus on research or explore the clinical side of medicine.

"I felt Einstein would offer me good exposure to both," he said.

While their decisions to attend Einstein offered a clear-cut introduction, it wasn’t love at first sight.

"At the time we met, she was just an applicant," Mr. Hazleton recalled. "I wasn't thinking about a relationship. "

Over time, that changed.

Soon after her acceptance to Einstein, Keith and Joy began working together when she volunteered at the Einstein Community Health Outreach (ECHO) Free Clinic, which provides free, high-quality, comprehensive healthcare to the uninsured population of the Bronx. Keith was on ECHO’s administrative board, a role that required him to train Joy for her work at the front desk.

Fiona demonstrates early promise to follow in mommy and daddy’s footsteps
Fiona demonstrates early promise to follow in mommy and daddy’s footsteps
"We complemented each other very well," he said. "We shared the same passion for providing healthcare to everyone. And there was definitely a spark."

The two began dating seriously during Joy's third year and, by late 2009, the two were engaged to be married.

"I was going to propose on Christmas, but my roommates were home," recalled Mr. Hazleton. "I told her I had one more present to give her when no one else was around. She was exhausted, but remembered the gift and wouldn’t stop asking me about it. That’s when I gave her the ring."

The couple was married in the summer of 2010. The following year, they welcomed their daughter Fiona to the family.

They quickly learned that raising a child can be difficult when both parents are finishing medical school. "It was an incredibly challenging time, but Einstein was so supportive," Ms. Hazleton said. "They created very accommodating schedules so that one of us could take Fiona to daycare and one of us would be there for her at night. We are so grateful for their help."

Now, the Hazletons are about to embark on the official start to their medical careers. The ability for couples to match to the same residency training program has allowed them both to begin pediatric residencies at Children’s Hospital Colorado this July.

"The biology of disease in children is interesting to me," Mr. Hazleton said. "When many adults get sick, it is a result of cumulative wear and tear from things like smoking, lack of activity or just the passage of time. But when a child gets a serious illness, there usually is a problem with a very basic biological process. I hope my research will someday help identify interventions that can improve quality of life for all children."

Ms. Hazleton, who feels her decision to go into pediatrics was the most "intellectually stimulating and emotionally rewarding" decision she has made, hopes to continue the work she conducted for her Ph.D., involving HIV, to study infectious diseases in children.

"My goals are the same goals as most doctors," she said. "I want to be the best doctor I can be and make a difference in the lives of as many people as I can."

She would also like to one day become an administrator and collaborate with other doctors on a universal healthcare system. She even jokes that she may write a horror novel set in a hospital. Wherever life takes her, she credits Einstein for making the journey easy.

"With all we experienced here, it’s the education we received that has allowed us to do what we have wanted," she said. "Because of Einstein, we were able to make decisions that were right for us and right for our family."

Posted on: Friday, May 10, 2013