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How my dad taught me to fly

Dr. Debra Guinn, Medical Director at Montana Perinatal Center, collaborates with a number of regional medical providers to offer comprehensive high-risk pregnancy care to all moms, babies and families in the state of Montana. Dr. Guinn’s collaborative approach also includes integrative learning opportunities for medical students. Kelsey McClure shares her experience from her time training at Montana Perinatal Center.

I am third-year medical student on a career path to become an obstetrician, a physician that cares for women during pregnancy and assists in their childbirth. As a student, I’m in a unique chapter of life: not quite a working professional, but I certainly consider myself to be an independent young adult involved in my community. This phase is a transition period that inspires me to dream of future goals, but I also find myself reflecting on the nostalgia of my childhood and how my parents helped lay the foundation of where I am today.

One of my favorite photos from my childhood is four-year-old me, on a beach, being tossed up in the air to a ridiculous height by my father. This slightly faded photo is a favorite of mine because of the undeniable bond you can see between us as our eyes are locked on one another. This is a profound father-daughter moment as he releases me, solo, many feet into the air, out of his reach. Yet, I have no fear and complete trust that he will catch me at the perfect moment. Now that I’m in my twenties, the days of my father tossing me into the air are in the past, but his fatherly advice and influence still have a great impact on me.

My dad is a physician and, as a result, I grew up around medicine. Conversations about medical topics made their way to the dinner table nightly and piqued my interest in the field. Ultimately, I believe it was my admiration for my father that made me want to be a doctor.

Growing up, my father was never truly “my” doctor beyond a few splints here and there; however, I realize now that our father-daughter relationship is founded on many of the same strong principles as a positive physician-patient relationship. I confide in him and seek his guidance often. He is quick to champion my accomplishments and success. He supports and guides me when I struggle. While my dad never pushed me to pursue medicine, he always underlined the importance of family and looking out for others - no matter my profession. This is a value that influences my daily decisions and one that I aim to carry forth into my medical career.

I was fortunate enough to complete certain student training requirements at Montana Perinatal Center, a clinic in the Kalispell Regional Healthcare system. I was reminded of my dad’s words to “focus on family” as I observed the staff and providers interact with their patients. The culture of the clinic is concentrated on the patient and compassionate care. Montana Perinatal Center serves a diverse patient population from around the state and provides services to mothers facing high-risk pregnancies. The clinic boasts two phenomenal physicians, a genetic counselor, and two sonographers; all of whom work together with women and their growing families to determine the optimal plan of care. It was a privilege to learn from such a dynamic team that provided a multi-disciplinary approach to the care of mothers and unborn babies.

A great deal of modern medical training is focused on matter-of-factness from a science and learning perspective, but I hope to always revel in the wonder of childbirth. While I have much to learn in my medical career, assisting with childbirth is the highlight of my training thus far. For me, the experience of welcoming a new baby into the world marries science and technology with human nature and awe. Often, it is the father’s outpouring of emotion that brings tears to my eyes. It is a truly raw and honest reaction to a significant life moment.Dad and daughter: Dr. Thomas McClure and Kelsey McClure

During my time at Montana Perinatal Center, my parents welcomed me back home to Whitefish for a short time while I was in the Flathead Valley (my medical program is based in Portland). Not only was I spoiled with home-cooked meals and a convenient home base for ski season, but I also returned to the dinner table discussions I remembered as a child. This time, however, I was a participant, not just a listener. As always, the conversations were rooted in science, but reliably circled back to the more meaningful discussion of compassionate care, relationships and families.

At around the age my dad was teaching me to fly on the beach, I overheard him saying he needed a new wrench. With my childlike thinking, I recall planting a small wrench in the garden. I intended to grow him more wrenches as a gift. Though this act could have been a bit more rooted in science, it was very much rooted in family and love.

I am proud to say that I have learned so much from my dad as a father, doctor and community member. Thank you, dad, for giving me the opportunity of advanced education and, more importantly, for showing me how to apply it well. Even as I transition into full-fledged adulthood, you are still teaching me how to fly.

Here’s to all dads this Father’s Day. My hope is that you inspire and teach your children to dream big like mine did. If you are an expectant father and a patient at Montana Perinatal Center, also know that you are in great hands with care providers that were also inspired by great men. Keep passing on the torch!

Learn more about high-risk pregnancy services at Montana Perinatal Center at krh.org/MontanaPerinatalCenter.



Written by Kelsey McClure, medical student


Submitted by Debra Guinn, MD, maternal-fetal specialist, Montana Perinatal Center