San Diego Mother Goes From Welfare Recipient to ER Doctor

PHOTO: Amanda Lamond-Holden went from welfare mom to doctor.
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When Amanda Lamond discovered she was pregnant at 18 years old, many people doubted she would ever reach her dream of becoming a doctor.

But when Dr. Amanda Lamond-Holden takes the stage tonight at a ceremony to celebrate the end of her residency at UCSD Medical Center, her son Braden, 15, will be clapping the hardest.

"It's been a long journey," Lamond-Holden told ABCNews.com of her 16 years of schooling and raising children.

"Pretty much my whole life she's been studying to be a doctor and trying to raise me right, and I'm just really proud of her," Brayden told 10News, ABC's affiliate in San Diego.

She discovered she was pregnant in October of her freshman year of college, and withdrew to move back in with her parents and attend community college. Her mother stopped working so Lamond-Holden could go back to school, and CalWORKS, a welfare program, allowed her to work 20 hours a week in an outpatient surgery center.

During that time, people would suggest she go for a two-year certificate or just an undergraduate degree, but Lamond-Holden refused to sell herself short. She'd wanted to become a doctor since she was 16 and wasn't ready to give up.

Lamond-Holden went on to become valedictorian of her graduating class at San Diego Mesa College, and finish her education at University of California at San Diego and its medical school. Last year, during her residency at UCSD Medical Center, she was named chief resident.

Along the way, Lamond-Holden got married and had two more children, Joey, 9, and Benjamin, 1. Joey was born just before Lamond-Holden began medical school, and Benjamin was born during her third year of residency.

But Lamond-Holden wasn't always so sure she would reach her goal. When Joey was 6 months old and she was two months into medical school, she panicked.

"I was thinking, 'Oh my God, how am I going to balance this?'" she said.

So she sat down with UCSD School of Medicine Dean for Medical Education Maria Savoia.

"She talked to me about her struggles…and said 'You really have to keep your mind focused on that final goal,'" Lamond-Holden said.

Savoia suggested that Lamond-Holden take a year off, raise her kids and do some soul-searching. She did, and calls it "the best decision I ever made in my entire life."

"I had my children during residency and fellowship and felt supported -- this was when there were very few women in medicine and I was the first to have a child during training," Savoia said in an email to ABCNews.com. "I'm glad I was able to pay it forward."

Lamond-Holden will be starting as an emergency department attending physician at the Palomar Medical Center in August.

She said her sons helped her through medical school and vice versa. Being a mother taught her to multi-task and keep calm in stressful situations. Being an aspiring doctor helped her earn her children's respect and appreciation.

"They respect me so much because they see I've pushed hard to give them a good life," she said. "They kind of cringe and are surprised that I can deal with blood and guts."

Now that Lamond-Holden will have more regular hours, she said she'll be sure to visit local high schools and talk to students.

"I would like to go into high school and say, 'Hey, you guys can better yourselves. Just because you have a child doesn't mean you can't follow your dreams," she said.

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