Alexis Palmer-Fluevog completed her PhD during five years of family flux.

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It’s no kidding matter: marriage, two kids and a PhD

June 06, 2016
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By Allen Tung

The past five years have been a whirlwind for Alexis Palmer-Fluevog.

She married, enrolled in a PhD program, and gave birth to two sons. Now, she is graduating with a PhD in population and public health from SFU’s Faculty of Health Sciences.

It’s a doctorate that, you could say, was a team effort between her family, colleagues and her two sons, Lucas and Jonah.  

Palmer-Fluevog began her PhD program in September 2011 after marrying her husband, Adrian, over the summer. She was pregnant with Lucas as she was preparing for her comprehensive exam. Second son Jonah was born this past October, a few weeks after her thesis defence.

Reflecting on her experience, Palmer-Fluevog admits there were times when it was difficult and she wondered whether she would continue.

While studying she was also working 15 hours a week at the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS and  co-teaching a global HIV/AIDS course with SFU health sciences professor Cari Miller for a semester.

But the outpouring of support from her committee, colleagues, family and her husband, Adrian, made it possible.

“All moms work hard at juggling their roles and responsibilities,” she says. “I am lucky to have a supportive husband and extended family here in Vancouver. They helped a lot with Lucas so that I could focus on my work.

“Adrian deserves a PhD of his own for the love and support he has given me.”

Palmer-Fluevog’s PhD thesis focussed on adolescents and young adults living with HIV/AIDS and how they can be supported with access and care.  

Her thesis committee consisted of health sciences professors Robert Hogg, Angela Kaida, Cari Miller, Will Small, Michel Joffres and Mark Brockman, as well as UBC global health professor and physician, Dr. Richard Lester.

“My committee was really supportive and I couldn’t have done it without their support either,” says Palmer-Fluevog. “They would take turns holding Lucas during our meetings.”

Without hesitation, Palmer-Fluevog says she would do it all over again.

“Having kids during something as intense as a PhD program helped bring perspective to my work,” she says. “It was really motivating and it forced me to have a work-life balance.

“However, I do not recommend defending one’s PhD at nine months pregnant with the constant threat of going into labour any moment!”