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Paige Romer | CU School of Medicine

Medicine and Education are Both in the Career Mix for a Graduating Med Student

Paige Romer, the product of a Colorado family known for public service, enrolled at the CU School of Medicine after teaching middle-school science.

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Written by Mark Harden on May 8, 2024
What You Need To Know

This story is part of the University of Colorado School of Medicine’s Graduation coverage highlighting our graduates. 

As a former middle-school teacher and soon-to-be-graduating medical student at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Paige Romer is finding ways to combine the two skill sets.

Romer – the descendant of a Colorado governor, a state lawmaker, and community activists – is also carrying on the family tradition of public service.

Romer earned a master’s degree in educational psychology at CU Denver, then taught science at a Denver school before enrolling at the CU School of Medicine, where she’s been involved in curriculum-reform projects, both on campus and nationally through her work as a student representative to the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC).

She’s proud of a program she developed with help from Tai Mara Lockspeiser, MD, a professor in the Department of Pediatrics, and Deborah Seymour, PsyD, an associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine, “to teach the science of learning to incoming medical students. I’ve been honored to be invited to give this talk to three incoming classes at CU during their first week of med school, reaching over 600 students. The talk focuses both on educational psychology as well as practical advice from a peer student.”

Paige Romer family triptych 1920 x 585

From left: Paige Romer with her husband, Todd Applebaum, and one of her children at her White Coat Ceremony in 2019. Center: Romer and her family on an outing. Right: Romer and her husband on Match Day 2024.

Overlap of teaching and medicine

And while she’s “still figuring out” the shape of her future medical career, Romer says she definitely wants to be involved in medical education. “I would love to continue working here in that capacity.”

While teaching was Romer’s first job, medicine “is something I’ve always had in the back of my mind,” she says. At Stanford University, she earned a bachelor’s degree in human biology with a focus on child health in 2012. Then came the master’s in education, followed by a rigorous one-year pre-med program at the University of Virginia.

> Graduating CU Medical Student Helps Provide Crucial Medical Care to Syrians

While teaching science at Stanley British Primary School in Denver’s Lowry neighborhood, “I loved working with students, but I was craving a career with a greater emphasis on lifelong learning. I also had many students who were so excited about science, and were themselves interested in medicine. That reignited my interest in going to med school. I love science and I love working with people. And I think there’s a lot of overlap with teaching.”

Having grown up in Denver and with family in Colorado, the CU School of Medicine was a natural choice for her training. “We have an incredible campus with so much going on. There’s such a great medical community here.”

A pause in med school

Romer started medical school the first time a year before COVID-19 struck, so she was able to attend her White Coat Ceremony in person. At the time she was pregnant with her second child, “and unfortunately I was having complications with my pregnancy, so I was only here for a few weeks. I took a year off and restarted with the COVID class that I’m now graduating with.”

Like her classmates in the Class of 2024, Romer found herself learning medicine remotely. “It was very strange starting med school on Zoom. There were a couple of classmates who I met in person that first year, but very few, and we didn’t have many opportunities to meet any faculty in person. That was a challenge. There were upsides to it, though. I had a 2-year-old and a baby at home, so doing med school remotely freed up my schedule a little bit. But it was really nice the following year, when I could have in-person interactions in the hallways.”

Romer has matched at the CU School of Medicine in its Medicine-Pediatrics Residency Program (Med-Peds), combining internal medicine and pediatrics.

> CU School of Medicine Match Day 2024

“Med-Peds is such a gem on this campus. I was drawn to it because of the people. It’s a very service-oriented program and is a very intellectual group. I’m excited about the opportunity to learn medicine and pediatrics at the same time because I think it will provide a unique perspective of both fields,” she says.

She’ll also be busy at home. She and her husband of eight years, Todd Applebaum, are raising three children: Miller, 6; Emerson, 4; and Callahan, 2.

Romer cites Lockspeiser, who is also an assistant dean of medical education, as her “closest mentor” on campus. “I worked with her on a number of medical education projects throughout my time here, and we’ve become friends. She helped me navigate having kids in medical school and has always been a huge support. She was also my pediatrics preceptor, so I was lucky to spend one half-day a week with her for about three years. She’s incredible!”

Her grandmother’s ‘amazing life’

Health care and education are part of Romer’s family tradition. Her grandfather, Roy Romer, who served three terms as Colorado governor, later was superintendent of the Los Angeles public school system. Her father, Chris Romer, a former Colorado state legislator, has been involved in several education initiatives. Her mother, Laurie Romer, worked to support the Denver Public Library and Emily Griffith Foundation. Her aunt Liz Romer, DNP, FNP, is a nurse practitioner, a former CU School of Medicine assistant professor, and now serves as chief clinical advisor at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

But Paige Romer cites her grandmother – former Colorado First Lady Bea Romer, who passed away last September – as the biggest influence and inspiration in her career journey.

“She had an amazing life,” she says. “She started and ran a preschool, all while having her own children. She was a fierce advocate for children in Colorado and touched the lives of so many kids. I learned from her that we cannot really solve any of the issues that we face as a society without considering the way that we treat and support our children, and that’s a big part of why I am pursuing a career in med-peds.”

She adds: “Grandma Bea always thought about kids first. That’s really her lasting mark, in addition to having seven of her own kids and over 20 grandkids. She was able to build relationships with so many people, and have such a large impact. My being service minded and having a real passion for helping people, especially children, certainly came from her.”