About six months after Dr. John Rovig began his studies as a member of the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine at UNLV charter class, he needed emergency surgery.
It turned out the abdominal pain he’d been experiencing for almost a month had been caused by an infected urachal cyst. People can generally live comfortably with that type of cyst unless it becomes infected.
“I was out almost a month after the surgery, basically overcoming the infection,” he said. “I really wasn’t feeling well.”
Despite the setback, he was determined to graduate with the rest of his class instead of delaying his medical education.
Through late nights and early mornings of study, he caught up and in May he earned his degree alongside his cohort in the school's first graduating class.
It was just one more puzzle to solve for Rovig, who's used to scaling mountains, both figurative and literal.
He chose internal medicine as a specialty because you start with very little hard information about what is causing a patient’s medical problem, allowing the physician to work his way to an answer. He says it is not unlike the mental gymnastics he goes through to figure out the best route to take during a rock climbing ascent.
“I enjoy the puzzle aspect of medicine, of working with a diverse community of patients," he said. "On top of that, internal medicine is a field that coordinates with many fields to help best take care of a patient. Like rock climbing, to be successful requires professional relations that are centered on trust and clear communication.”
Rovig's path to medicine started in his native Idaho, where his late grandfather cast a long shadow over the family.
“My grandfather was a dermatologist and was someone that I looked up to as a child. Unfortunately, he passed away when I was still young. My mom loved to tell me stories of the type of person and physician my grandfather was. He would make house calls on his days off and was always willing to aid those in need. His memory inspired me to want to become a physician.”
Later, Rovig's sister fell seriously ill. Specialists in Arizona told Rovig's parents they should prepare for the worst. But a hometown doctor in Idaho Falls discovered what was causing Rovig's sister's problems: a rare complication of lupus.
He even treated her at no cost, knowing his parents had extensive medical bills. "That doctor still took her under his wing and got her well. Rovig said. "She’s now married and has two kids. He further inspired me to become a physician.”
After keeping his nose to the grindstone to catch back up to his classmates, Rovig is now facing another challenge that involves late nights and early mornings. But one that's much more enjoyable.
On July 1, the first day of his internal medicine residency at the School of Medicine, his wife, Kaitlin, gave birth to Will Timothy Rovig, a child Rovig says the couple has been praying for over the last four years.
“I get up during the night to help my wife by changing diapers and burping the baby,” he said. “I really enjoy it.”