For Drs. Lisa and Paul Baron, it wasn’t exactly love at first sight — more like love at first smile.
Paul Baron, a medical student at Boston University in the early 1980s, said he followed Lisa, then a nursing student, into a hospital linen closet because she smiled at him.
“The day before, I knew she had braces on. I thought that was kind of unusual for a college kid to have braces,” Baron said. “And this girl who smiled at me didn’t have braces. You know that first time you meet someone and then you meet them again and you’re not sure if it’s the same person? And so I walked in and said, ‘Didn’t I meet you yesterday?’ She said yes. I said, ‘Didn’t you have braces on yesterday?’ And she said, ‘You’re the first one who noticed! I had them off this morning.’ ”
“I was smiling at everyone and he thought I was smiling at him,” she said.
The Barons, both physicians in Charleston now, married in 1984. They have three children and work together in the same medical office in West Ashley. They’re just one of many couples who met, married and now work side by side in the Lowcountry medical community.
“We’ve never not worked together,” Lisa Baron said. “At work, it’s work. It’s professionalism. At home, we try to separate it and be at home and try to make it two different worlds. Sometimes it’s easier than other times, but we try to maintain that.”
That work-life balance also is one of the bigger challenges for Elisha Brownfield and Ben Clyburn, both doctors at the Medical University of South Carolina. Brownfield and Clyburn met during residency training in Winston-Salem in 1990. They married in 1993.
“He was very outgoing, a very good storyteller,” she said of their early relationship. “And plus he was very funny. He made me laugh. He still makes me laugh.”
Brownfield and Clyburn are raising five daughters in Charleston.
“We always wanted at least three,” she said. “I don’t remember specifically talking about five. It just happened.”
Love in the hospital hallways isn’t exclusive to doctors. Jennifer Stayton, a nurse at Trident Medical Center, met her husband, Cort, a police officer, when he escorted a patient to the emergency room in 2005. “One of the nurses gave him my phone number and … that’s all she wrote,” Stayton said.
Cort Stayton proposed the following year during a holiday party at the hospital. Their son, Bradley, is 3 years old.
“It was a fate thing,” she said.
But it’s actually fairly common for people to fall in love at work. According to a CareerBuilder.com study published Wednesday, 39 percent of workers say they have dated a coworker at least once. Thirty percent of those relationships resulted in marriage.
The health care industry ranks among the top five for office romance, the study found.
Brownfield said it helps that her husband also is a doctor. He understands the intensity of working in a hospital. But there are downsides, too, she conceded.
“We have a tendency to talk about work a lot,” Brownfield said. “If you work together, that can bleed over into the rest of your life.”
At the dinner table, Brownfield said her daughters often let their parents know when they’ve had enough medical chatter.
“They say, ‘Can we go back to speaking English?’ ”
Elisha Brownfield and Ben Clyburn met during their internal medicine residency in Winston-Salem, N.C. They now work at the Medical University of South Carolina and share five daughters. Back row: Ben Clyburn, MD 2nd row (left to right): Rachel Clyburn, Samantha Clyburn, Virginia Grace Clyburn Front (left to right): Rebecca Clyburn, Elisha Brownfield, MD and seated: Catherine Clyburn. (Provided)×