From preschool to graduate school, triplets Kevin, Martin and Emily Walsh have had one goal — to follow a path forged by their parents by training to become physicians. All three of them are now students at Loyola’s Stritch School of Medicine, the same institution their parents attended.
“I think [being a doctor] is what we’ve been trained unknowingly for our entire lives,” Kevin, a 26-year-old in his fourth year of medical school, said. “I explored other options … but, got into med school and decided to go, and never looked back.”
Kevin, who received his bachelor’s degree from University of Notre Dame, said the choice to attend Stritch was partly driven by his desire to continue studying at a Catholic institution after going to Catholic schools for his entire life. He also said it was partly because of his family’s connections.
“Obviously having my parents go here and do their training here and work here was a pretty big plus as well,” he said. “It just felt like home.”
The triplets’ parents — Dr. John Walsh and Dr. Terri Zeman — both graduated from Stritch School of Medicine in 1982 after earning their undergraduate degrees at Loyola in 1979. They also stayed at Stritch for their residency and fellowship.
After meeting her husband in biology class during their first year of college, Zeman said they remained friends through undergrad before starting to date in medical school.
Zeman said she was thrilled when Kevin told her he’d been accepted to Stritch, and she feels blessed to have three of her kids there at the same time.
“I can still remember where I was the moment when all three of them told me they got in [to Stritch],” Zeman said. “It was just so amazing to think that [they] got in, it’s so hard and I was just like, ‘Oh, what are the chances that my kids would be able to succeed like that’ — and then they did.”
Martin, who’s in his second year at Stritch, said the decision to come to Stritch was in part influenced by his parents’ time there, although he said his parents didn’t pressure him to choose Stritch, or even become a doctor at all.
“As we got closer to choosing medical schools … my dad started talking a lot about the things he thought were good about Stritch, like the quality of the faculty and instruction, and the quality of the clinical skills that you leave Stritch with,” Martin said.
Martin said he thought about working in finance for a little bit. He did a master’s program after earning his undergraduate degree at University of Notre Dame, but he said he’s always figured he would end up becoming a doctor.
“I seriously considered not doing medicine, but at the end of the day, I couldn’t give up the childhood dream,” Martin said. “It’s always been in my head for as long as I can remember.”
Emily, who just began her first year of medical school at Stritch, said growing up with dinnertime conversation revolving around medicine made choosing medical school at Stritch feel like coming home.
After earning her bachelor’s degree from University of Connecticut and taking a couple gap years to work and do research in Montreal, Canada, Emily said she decided she wanted to be closer to home for medical school.
“I debated not coming home,” Emily said. “I loved being away and doing my own thing, but hearing stories from both my parents and my brothers, I realized the importance of being around a solid support system and family during medical school.”
Growing up in Burr Ridge Illinois, a western suburb of Chicago, the Walsh siblings said they have other activities in common aside from a passion for medicine, such as playing ice hockey together in the winter and sometimes hiking and backpacking in the summer.
With all three triplets studying the same field, Kevin said there’s still light-hearted competition among them — something that’s been present since they were children.
“Growing up it was very competitive — just literally in everything, whether that was playing soccer in the backyard or playing hockey in the backyard, or playing cards,” Kevin said. “It has lessened to some respect, because we’re not in the same year, but the competition is still definitely there.”
The competition between Emily and her brothers has been a driving force for the three of them to try harder, but she said it isn’t as problematic now that they’ve all almost achieved their goal.
Emily said having her brothers interested in the same field as her allows them to lean on each other for help.
“Kevin is super helpful to just ask questions, like ‘Should I do this elective, should I not do it?’ or ‘What doctor should I shadow?’” Emily said. “Almost it’s like the opposite of the competition, like we went from being super competitive to now we’re all just super helpful.”
The interest in medicine was also passed on to the youngest Walsh sibling, Claire, who’s a senior at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The 21-year-old is currently applying to veterinary school, and said she considered human medicine, but has always been more drawn to veterinary medicine.
Claire said the competition between her siblings is more friendly than fierce, and she enjoys having older siblings to be able to compare herself to.
“I feel really blessed to have them all in my life, and I like how they’re four years older than me because they’ve kind of blazed the path for me, like where I’m gonna go [in life], and showing me how to be an older person before I got to that stage,” Claire said.
Zeman said it feels rewarding to see all her children have a shared interest in medicine, but she would’ve supported their decision to study anything.
“We tried not to sway them one way or the other,” Zeman said. “But the fact that they chose this path and were then successful in getting into the schools is just amazing … and it is just fun to be able to have conversations as their education proceeds, and then all of the sudden they’ll say something and I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, you know that already.’”