The following is excerpted from the Church Newsroom. To read the full report, CLICK HERE.

Photo: Sarah Merrill stands with her large family at the Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine graduation on May 20, 2022. Merrill, a Latter-day Saint, was a wife and mother of nine children when she decided to attend medical school. Photo credit: Sarah Merrill

When the Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine asked Sarah Merrill if she was willing to share her story with the media, the graduating wife and mother of nine wasn’t initially interested.

Then she changed her mind.

“I thought about how I would have loved to hear about a story like this when I was starting,” she said. “We find stories about women having their first baby during medical school but I couldn’t find much about women who started school already having had their family. So I was hoping it would help somebody out there.”

Despite some personal apprehension early on, Merrill started medical school in 2018 when her youngest child was 4 years old.

The 41-year-old graduated from medical school in May and celebrated the milestone with her husband and nine children, ages 8 to 20.

“Most of my doubts and fears were before medical school started,” Merrill told the Deseret News. “We had just moved to Arizona and I hadn’t started school yet. I didn’t know what it was going to be like. I didn’t know if it was possible to do with nine kids. I couldn’t find anybody who had done it before. Once I got into school, had my first exams under my belt and did fine and we got into a rhythm with my family, I wasn’t really worried that I would make it.”

The Jason and Sarah Merrill family. Sarah Merrill recently graduated from medical school and will soon start neurosurgery residency at Indiana University. Sarah Merrill

Putting medical school dreams on hold

Merrill, who was born in Provo, Utah, aspired to be a doctor from a young age.

“That was my plan,” she said.

She married Jason Merrill in the Mount Timpanogos Utah Temple in 2000 and the couple pursued their education at Dartmouth College.

Sarah and Jason Merrill were married in the Mount Timpanogos Utah Temple in November 2000.
Sarah Merrill

Merrill signed up to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) before learning she was pregnant. She thought she still might go to medical school and took the MCAT, but later decided to stay home and raise her daughter.

“That was the right thing for me to do at that time,” she said.

The couple didn’t necessarily plan to have a large family, but Merrill went on to deliver four daughters and five sons over the next 12 years.

She relished raising her children but never gave up on her desire to continue her education. Maybe medical school wasn’t realistic, but she wanted to find something worthwhile.

“I always thought I would (return) when the kids were grown and do something. … I loved being a mom to our kids, but I definitely had a lot of ambition and career goals,” she said. “It was hard to put them on hold but I did it because I believed in what we were doing. But it wasn’t like the desire went away and then suddenly came back. It was definitely always there.”

Medical school in Arizona

Merrill started preparing to apply to medical school in 2016. She retook the MCAT and was eventually accepted at the Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine, requiring the family to move from Pennsylvania to Arizona.

How did the family function while mom went to medical school? It was a team effort.

Mornings typically involved getting everyone up and ready for school. The oldest teenager shuttled the older kids to high school while the parents took the younger children to buses or school. Then Jason turned his attention to work and Sarah went to her school.

There were many mother-daughter “homework parties” where each person did their homework while enjoying snacks.

During her third year with clinical rotations, Sarah’s mother lived with the family and helped with the children so Sarah could be at the hospital by 5 a.m.

To read the full report, CLICK HERE.