Mom of 9 graduates from medical school, plans to become a neurosurgeon

June 15, 2022
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A mother of nine who started medical school when her youngest child was 4 years old graduated with her medical degree and plans to be a neurosurgeon.

Sarah Merrill graduated this month from the Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine in Phoenix, Arizona, with her husband and nine kids, who now range in age from 20 to 8, by her side.

Merrill and her family are now moving to Indiana, where she will begin her residency in neurosurgery at Indiana University next month.

“It’s going to be a new challenge, a new adventure,” Merrill told “Good Morning America” of her upcoming residency. “But everybody is on board and I think we have a great support system.”

Merrill, now 41, said her journey to medical school began at age 17, when she entered Dartmouth College as a pre-med major.

She then met her husband, got married and had a 5-month-old daughter by the time she graduated from Dartmouth.

Merrill said she took the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) while pregnant with her daughter and had plans to go straight into medical school after college, but changed her mind and decided to be a stay-at-home mom while her daughter was young.

Then, Merrill said she and her husband began to grow their family.

“We weren’t necessarily going for a large family, in particular, in our planning, but that is what we did,” she said. “We ended up having four daughters and five sons, and we had all nine of those kids in 12 years.”

While raising her kids, Merrill said she tried to keep one foot in medicine by doing some part-time work in medical research. When her youngest child was 2, Merrill decided to go back to school.

She said she first thought about going to school part-time to get a master’s degree, but then decided to follow her original dream of attending medical school.

“I was 34 and I decided to go back and start taking some more recent coursework and I had to retake the MCAT,” she said. “I remember studying for the MCAT when my two youngest were 2 and 3 years old and my 2-year-old would climb on me like a mountain while I was trying to take practice tests.”

When Merrill was accepted at the Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine, she and her family moved from Pennsylvania to Arizona so she could attend.

“Before I even applied to medical school, we had a big family meeting and everybody got to voice their opinion about it and we explained to them what it would mean,” she said. “They all gave it a big vote of support at the time.”

While in medical school, Merrill said she relied on a village of support, including her mom, who moved to Arizona to help, and her husband, who was able to keep his job and work remotely from Arizona.

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