If your father died when you were just 4-years-old and your mother worked seven days a week after becoming the sole support for a large family, becoming a physician wouldn’t seem to be very likely.
Yet Dr. Nora Doyle, who in December became the UNLV School of Medicine Assistant Dean for Ultrasound Education as well as a professor of maternal fetal medicine, says that the influence of her family, her church and athletics made it seem that all things were possible.
She grew up in Watertown, New York, the sixth of seven children. Her father, a businessman, died of an illness. Her mother then worked as a nurse Monday through Friday at a local hospital and on Saturday and Sunday she nursed an elderly homebound woman.
“My siblings and I relied a great deal on each other and my grandparents growing up since my mother had to work so much,” Dr. Doyle says. “My grandfather worked at the same air brake factory for over 50 years. He only had a 6th grade education but did the New York Times crossword puzzle everyday. Similarly my grandmother worked at the phone company for 35 years and had only an eighth grade education. They both supported and encouraged education for all of us. We all went to Catholic school where education was rigorous but rewarded... Both from my family and church a sense of duty to make use of the talents one was given and to also help those less fortunate was ingrained from a very early age.“
Dr. Doyle’s older sister embarked on a career in medicine. "Against all odds she became a physician," says Dr. Doyle, who came to Las Vegas from Houston, where she was a professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center. "I was lucky I had that kind of role model."
Athletics has played a huge role in her life. "It kept me out of a trouble as a kid... It turns out a lot of the same things required to be a successful athlete are also needed to be a good doctor. Hard work, perseverance, compassion, team-work, and patience are just a few things I learned from my athletic days and it carried with me into medicine. I played team sports of soccer, volleyball, basketball and softball in high school. Our softball team won the New York State Championships my senior year... Athletics allowed me to attend Sonoma State
(during the 80s in California)
... I changed to running cross country and track in college."
Today, Dr. Doyle, the mother of four children, still holds the second best woman’s time in the 1500 meters for Sonoma State (4:29.88) and the fourth best time in the 3000 meters (9:59.14). She bettered those times while at the Tulane College of Medicine in national meets, including the Olympic trials, hitting 4:16.7 in the 1500 and 9:39 in the 3000. Her love of sports was so great that her initial goal was to become a sports medicine doctor. “My plan was on track until I was exposed to obstetrics and gynecology as a third year medical student and I knew I found my calling.” Running today, she says, is limited to her and her husband, Dr. Michael Gardner, UNLV School of Medicine Vice Dean of Clinical Affairs and UNLV Medicine President/CEO, “jogging a little to stay in shape.”
During her residency and fellowship training in maternal fetal medicine, Dr. Doyle became fascinated by ultrasound. “Unlike other imaging tools such as X-ray, CT scan or MRI, ultrasound is available at the bedside and can be both performed and interpreted instantly by the physician.” She’s thankful Founding Dean Dr. Barbara Atkinson sees the importance of ultrasound outside obstetrics
integrating its study throughout the curriculum.
Most people, she agrees, only think of ultrasound in terms of obstetrics
people soon to become parents first see images of their child inside the mother’s womb through ultrasound. But ultrasound, she points out, is used in many other areas of medicine.
“In the emergency room E.R. physicians use ultrasound to quickly determine if a patient has severe bleeding and needs to go to the operating room. Surgeons can use ultrasound to determine if a patient has an appendicitis. In the ICU, ultrasound is commonly used to help intensivists visually place large intravenous catheters preventing complications of these procedures. Pediatricians can and do use ultrasound to diagnose children who have pneumonia, thus saving them from X-ray radiation exposure. Infectious disease doctors use ultrasound to drain abscesses and infections. Cardiologists have long used ultrasound for their patients to visualize heart anomalies and heart function. Anesthesiologists rely on ultrasound to safely place intraoperative line monitors for their patients. Neurologists make use of ultrasound while performing pain injection therapies. Sports Medicine Orthopedic Surgeons utilize ultrasound imaging for the diagnosis and treatments of tendon tears and bone fractures. Ultrasound can actually be used by ophthalmology to evaluate cataracts and other eye disorders. Recently, our son’s neurosurgeon actually used ultrasound during the operation to help liquefy and make it easier to remove his brain tumor.”
The more you talk with Dr. Doyle, the more you understand how she became assistant dean for ultrasound education. She is a true believer in the benefits of ultrasound.
“In the future we envision that doctors will carry handheld ultrasounds, perhaps connected to their smartphones for any number of uses,” she says. “For example instead of listening to a patient’s heart beat, using their pocket ultrasound to watch the heartbeat. Really, the possibilities seem endless.”