Roommate Recognition: Doctors Emily Gottlieb ’03 and Ashley O’Reilly ’03 win Washington, D.C. award

Ever since their first year at Carleton, best friends and roommates Emily Gottlieb ’03 and Ashley O’Reilly ’03 have pushed to the front of their fields together.

Greta Hardy-Mittell ’23 Feb. 20, 2020

Friendship isn’t a criterion to get onto the Washingtonian’s annual Top Doctor list. But ever since their first year at Carleton, besties Emily Gottlieb ’03 and Ashley O’Reilly ’03 have pushed to the front of their fields together.

Ashley (left) and Emily (right) named Washingtonian Top Doctors in November 2019Last November, the Washingtonian magazine recognized both Gottlieb and O’Reilly as outstanding doctors in their respective fields of Obstetrics/Gynecology and Otolaryngology. Remarkably, they have each received this honor after practicing for only five and six years. Making the Washingtonian list connotes that a doctor has established themselves in their career; typically, the doctors who receive this honor are the senior partners in their practice. Gottlieb and O’Reilly’s selection shows that they are already well-respected in their fields, as it was based on votes from peer doctors in Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia. In O’Reilly’s words, it reveals “who your doctors think are amazing doctors.” So for the two friends, the award is particularly special because they got to vote for each other.Senior year at Carleton, September 2002

Gottlieb and O’Reilly met before they even started school at Carleton, during their first preseasons for volleyball and cross country, respectively. They quickly learned that they both dreamed of being doctors. Soon enough, they were following the biology major and pre-med track together, taking almost all of the same classes and sharing favorite biology professors. By their senior year, they were roommates in the former Love House.

After finishing Grandma's Marathon in Duluth, MN in 2004The two have lived parallel lives ever since. After graduation, they moved out to Washington D.C., along with their Carleton boyfriends and two other Carleton friends. The six young alumni shared a house for a year before splitting off: O’Reilly stayed in D.C. to go to Georgetown while Gottlieb attended Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. But even while they were apart, the two friends always met back up. In fact, they ran eight marathons together in their first six years after graduation, meeting up for long training runs in one state or another. “Our last marathon was the weekend before our residencies started,” said O’Reilly. “It was our last hurrah.”

Family vacation to Jamaica in March 2017 with Scott O'Reilly ’02, Jon Davey ’03, and the kidsToday, they’re both back in the D.C. area. “We’re kind of like each other’s family here,” Gottlieb said when I called, and I could tell. O’Reilly had driven through traffic from one suburb to another for a joint video interview, and they were making a night out of it. The pair were there with their husbands—the same former boyfriends from the summer after graduation—and three other families of Carleton alums. Fourteen kids were running around the house, including Gottlieb’s three and O’Reilly’s two, all about the same ages. “They act like cousins,” their mothers told me.

Pregnant with their second kids Memorial Day weekend 2014After all, Gottlieb and O’Reilly have certainly supported each other like sisters, in both their lives and their careers. “We relied on each other so much through residency and medical school,” O’Reilly said. “Not just because we’re friends, but also being women having the same experiences, like both having kids at the same time in residency.” That support is what has helped her persevere as a woman in a male-dominated field, she told me. “I think planning our next girls’ trip is what keeps us sane. The women I’ve seen struggle the most are the ones who isolate themselves from other women.”

O’Reilly sees her field as moving in a direction where it’s easier and easier for women to find each other. Certainly coming from Carleton, a school with a high proportion of women in STEM, she saw her pre-med ambitions encouraged. “I never felt like there was a male-female dichotomy, because I didn’t want to,” she said. “I’m sure there are some women out there who feel like no matter what they do, they’re going to be at a disadvantage, but I fortunately have never felt that way.”

Gottlieb added that not only did many of her female friends go on to be doctors, but that most of the doctors she knows are women—so many that when she asked her son whether he wanted to be a doctor when he grew up, he responded, “No, I thought only girls could be doctors.” Gottlieb’s world, at least, has come far enough that she has to explain to her son that men can be doctors, too. “That’s our reality,” she said.

So is it just a lucky coincidence that Gottlieb and O’Reilly were both recognized as Washington’s Top Doctors in the same year? Maybe—or perhaps it’s part of a greater surge in women doctors helping each other succeed.

Posted In