First Doctor in the Family

I slouched through school feeling ashamed with three strikes against me: tall, smart and athletic.  Not cool.  In the 70’, girls pursuing advanced careers in sports or academics were scorned minorities. Fast-forward four decades. Our Franco-American daughter, Nathalie stood proud, set shot blocking records in college and aced medical boards, playing the game her way.

Ironically, I, who grew up with hospital phobia and feared white coats, gave birth to a doctor.  Yet in retrospect, I saw the makings of a medicine woman early on.  As a precocious child, Nat spoke two languages, read books at the dinner table and excelled in her studies.  As a youngster, she had an innate ability to sense others’ pain.  She held her great grandpa’s hand when his footsteps faltered from Parkinson disease and leaned her head into Great Grandma’s shoulder to make her feel special.  She distracted her little brother when he threw tantrums and settled squabbles between cousins.

Fascinated with body parts and blood cells, she insisted we read « The Way Your Body Works » over and over again in childhood.  While I cringed at the word science and the sight of blood, she loved chemistry and biology, mixing chemicals and dissecting animals.

She paved her own path sans doctors in the family on either side.  Born of blue collar and modest teachers’ families, she jumped social classes to become a doctor of medicine, following her dream 4,000 miles away from home.

I marveled at her persistence; the greater obstacle, the harder she grit her teeth. The night her college team got knocked out of the conference championship, she mourned the end of her basketball career.  Yet hours later, she cracked open books and crammed for the biochem exam scheduled for 8 am the next day. She survived four years of boot camp for doctor wannabees in the grueling med school program enduring thirty-hour shifts and studying every free second. Med school is intense from the get go. …First day meet body buddies, second day meet body – as in cadaver.

Nat's medical school graduation

Nat's medical school graduation

The afternoon of Nat’s graduation from the University of Minnesota Medical School, her dad and I stayed up late in Switzerland to watch live on webcam.  When they announced, « Doctor Nathalie Lechault » and she stepped forward to be hooded, my throat tightened. I blinked back bittersweet tears filled with awe.

In 2011, nearly half of the 238 students in Nathalie’s graduating class were female.  From the Susan B. Anthonys and suffragettes of the late 1800s, to the Rosa Parks of the civil rights, to the Gloria Steinems of the liberation movement – hats off to all the women, who dared to think outside the box, who dreamed big, who helped give birth to our alpha daughters of the 21st century.

Posted in education, inspiration, relationships.


  1. CONGRATULATIONS~!!! To you … and most especially to Nat. What a thrill to have raised a daughter who will make such a substantial contribution to society. Has she chosen a specialty yet?

    My oldest gran will get her medical degree next year from U of No Car at Chapel Hill and would like to join doctor’s without borders. She is leaving her choice of a specialty open for now.

    I am buying time with blood transfusions … nearly one a week recently. It’s a colossal nuisance not to to know if I can function day-to-day … and time-consuming, but NOT painful. I sent you a recent photo album, so you can see I still continue to look ok. Prednisone is my friend … When convenient, query Nat about LGL. It’s a T-cell blood cencer. 90% of blood cancers are B-cell diseases. Guess how much time and money is being spent on research of T-cell cancer?

    Hope to hear from you other than your blog, when convenient. Much love from TOP

  2. Our heartiest congratulations to Nat and the wonderful parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins that stood by her all along the way! We are sooooo proud of her!!! I know she is going to make a difference in whatever she decides to do! Love and hugs from Boston

  3. Patty,
    What a heartwarming story~breathtaking.It brought tears to my eyes. How proud you must be of Nat. You know that old saying-” the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”Your daughter is a reflection of your courage and persistence
    Congratulations to you both for a phenomenal achievement. The world is a better place for your contributions!_

  4. Pat –
    Congratulations on Nathalie’s graduation from med school. I’m sooo excited for her. I’ll be anxious to see where she goes next. it has truly been fun following your kids. I think the toughest job
    in the world is being a parent . . . and the most important to society . . . and the most rewarding. Congrats to you for raising a daughter who could not only think outside the box, but live and thrive
    there as well. You have done a wonderful job as a Mom, and you should be very proud of your children. I loved the pic of your Mom and Dad. How great they were able to be at the ceremony!
    Hope you are feeling better. Do you get to see the sunlight this summer? I really enjoy your blog. It’s a wonderful way to stay connected. Thanks for all your wonderful thoughts.
    Happy Memorial Day – Jill

  5. You go girl! I mean that to you and your daughter. You obviously taught her she could be anything she wanted to. Way to go, mom!

  6. How wonderfully blessed you must feel. “Kudos” to an aspiring young lady. Our son Christopher graduated from the University of St. Frances with a BS Degree in Lee. Education with major in Language Arts and Social Studies. At the age of 39 and 5 adopted children later, he made it. As parents, we must join the joy they have as they achieve their goals. History is yet to be made with their future.

    Dr. Clarice Boswell

  7. Toutes mes felicitations a Nathalie et a vous puisque vous lui avez donne l’exemple d’une femme courageuse! (Sorry, can’t find out how to do accents in this comments field!) This is a wonderful column and brought tears to my eyes as well! Thank you, Pat!

    • Merci beaucoup Carol! Your French is amazing. Don’t worry about the accents even though I have them on my international keyboard, I rarely use them, because I can never figure which way they lean! ha

  8. So proud of Dr. Nathalie. I am sure her compassion comes in part from the warm and caring McKinzie Clan!! Carry on, doctor!

  9. Sista,
    well done Mom, well done! Congratulations to Nathalie and you! She would Not be where she is today with a strong, supportive Mom in her life! ( and maybe some helpful Aunties too!) It was so special to be there with Nat at Graduation….thanks for sharing her the last 8 years Stateside! Ironically, you watching on webcam witnessed more than live event spectators!
    Just like her mother, Nat has and will continue to positively influence others!

  10. Lets not forget that Nat had time to help me coach the 8th grade girls basketball team her first year of med school!!
    Talk about a role model! JohnPupkes

    • Thanks John. I want you know that Nat tied in her coaching experience with you to her interest in peds and wrote about it in her application for residency. It helped her match at her first place choice at the U in your “home ” town. I am sure that the friendship and guidance you and Jean and Kar and Dick have provided played a part in her decision to stay the cities.

  11. Hey Pat
    Such a great accomplishment for Nat! I have enjoyed hearing through Sue about her school career. Isn’t it amazing to have such a dedicated and motivated daughter? Angela is just 2 years away from her vet degree! Does Nat have her residency assignment yet? Hopefully she will get to enjoy some R&R time at the lake before that begins. You must be so proud!

  12. Hi Pat,

    It’s interesting to see how our children make their own way, and often are so different from ourselves. We can a be grateful to live in a society where there are choices and opportunities for everyone. Congratulations on the success of your daughter!

    PS: We lived in Sterling, VA for some years in the 80s amd 90s.

    • Thanks, Miss Footloose where HAVEN’T you lived? Love following your happy trails. With all your experiences here, there and everywhere, I am sure you, especially, can appreciate the societies that allow us women to be footloose and fancy free!

  13. Congratulations to Nat, and to you, Pat (and Gerald too) for raising such a remarkable young lady. I know that Nat
    will be an amazing, compassionate doctor and will be
    bring wonderful gifts to the medical profession. I feel blessed to have been such a close part of Nat’s life and am so happy for her and the exciting adventure that awaits her.

  14. Dear Patricia, I just love reading your stories, especially the ones regarding your family. To know you is to know they come from your heart! Congratulations to Nat on her Dr. degree. Congrats also to her proud parents, brother Nic, grandparents, and etc. Her accomplishment(s) are definitely something to be proud of. You and Gerald did a GREAT job! CONGRATULATIONS!!!

    • Thanks Cyndi! Glad to know you enjoy following…so often feel like I am writing stories in the clouds that nobody sees! ha ha How are you doing? How are the kids? They sure grow up fast!!! Send me your phone no. via email.

  15. Congrats, Patty, to you, Nat, Gerald, and the entire McKinzie and LeChault families. As you know, it takes a village to raise a child and takes even more to raise a doctor! Job well done and thank God for webcams!


I would love to hear from you

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.