When historians write of real life love stories, of how great romances began, they don’t include Drs. Bradley and Abbey Burger, married obstetric-gynecologists with the UNLV School of Medicine.
Sure, it was romantic for Prince Rainier of Monaco to become so smitten with American film star Grace Kelly as he watched her film “To Catch a Thief” on the French Riviera that he wrote her enough love letters to fill a bank vault. And it’s undoubtedly romantic for June Carter to say to her future husband, Johnny Cash, that “I feel like I know you already” when she first met him backstage at the Grand Ole Opry.
But the truth is, the Drs. Burger have a romance with a beginning even more compelling than Roman General Mark Anthony’s request that Cleopatra -- he first met her as the young mistress of Caesar --join him on the coast for, well, a mature meeting
The Drs. Burger, who now help bring life into the world virtually every day, literally started their love affair as the dead lay all around them. They and their medical school colleagues dissected them, trying to learn as much as possible about the human body.
“Nothing more romantic than cadavers, I suppose,” says Dr. Abbey Burger, a Minnesota native. “I enjoyed the way Brad (he was a teaching assistant as well as a student at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine) taught the anatomy lab.”
No one can accuse the Drs. Burger of not having senses of humor.
“People have fun with how we met -- nothing disrespectful,” says Dr. Bradley Burger, who was brought up in a small town in Pennsylvania.
The Burgers have a profound respect for those families who donate bodies to science.
“We had very respectful ceremonies to honor those who donate something so important to education,” Dr. Bradley Burger says. “It’s important.”
Within a year of meeting at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine -- it is headquartered in Lewisburg, WV, home to the Greenbrier Resort -- Bradley Burger and Abbey Niedzielski married. Before they left West Virginia for residencies, they helped an individual who flipped her car in front of them stabilize prior to a helicopter rescue. They’ve now been married for nearly a dozen years.
Their early marriage -- which encompassed their four year ob-gyn residences -- also has a distinctiveness about it. Each ended up doing their graduate medical education in the other’s home state. He went to the University of Minnesota for his ob-gyn residency; she went to the Lehigh Valley Health Network in Pennsylvania for hers. But what was really distinctive is that for four years they saw each other for only two weeks a year.
“We had a real good week every six months, with only two weeks of vacation each year,” Dr. Abbey Burger says. “It wasn’t easy always getting the same weeks off. But we always made an effort to speak on the phone.”
While in Minnesota, Dr. Bradley Burger got to know his wife’s parents well. Because their home was near the University of Minnesota, he lived in their basement. His parents didn’t live close enough to his wife’s work in Pennsylvania for her to live with them.
When their residencies were completed, they took positions as the OB-GYN specialists in Miles City, Montana for two years. While the city may have had less than a half dozen stoplights, people in the largely rural state would drive three or four hours for an appointment with the baby doctor or to give birth. It was there that the couple would sometimes receive phone calls for Dr. Burger to hurriedly come to the hospital for a birth, only to find out later that the call was for the other Dr. Burger.
“It happened quite a few times that the Dr. Burger who delivered the baby was actually supposed to be the other Dr. Burger,” Dr. Bradley Burger says.