Lawyer, Mother and Now Physician-To-Be

Lawyer, Mother and Now Physician-To-Be

Rutgers' Claire Sathe discovered her calling when she became a patient

First-year medical student Claire Sathe is fulfilling a dream that seemed unrealistic until a few years ago.
Photo: Jeff Tolvin

‘I had really never been a patient but being pregnant and having kids exposed me to the medical world like never before. I had great attentive doctors and admired the way they cared for their patients.’ 
Claire Sathe

Since her sophomore year in college while studying abroad in Boston, life’s been a series of major career and personal transitions for French native Claire Sathe. She earned dual law degrees in the United States and France, got married, practiced law in New York and New Orleans and gave birth to two daughters. 

But all of that was not quite enough.  So, at 34, Sathe decided to enter Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and take a new educational journey that would enable her to fulfill a dream which seemed unrealistic until just a few years ago.

“Growing up, I had always thought that med school would be a cool thing,” says Sathe. “But science was not my thing.  I liked languages and felt my career might involve public policy.”

Even though she was not convinced the law was her calling, Sathe enrolled after college in a joint law degree curriculum – two years at New York’s Columbia University and two in Paris at the Sorbonne – mostly to help satisfy her strong desire to return to the states.

But after practicing corporate law in New York and later working in New Orleans several years, as a clerk for a federal judge and then representing defendants in the public defender’s office, Sathe decided that she wasn’t motivated to be a career lawyer.

While she had been eager to move to New Orleans when her husband took a new job there following Hurricane Katrina, Sathe was frustrated by her limited ability to help criminal defendants, many of whom had chronic health issues or learning disorders.

“I took the job hoping to help people,” she says of her role in the public defender’s office. “But I found out that I was not really helping people the way I wanted.”

Image of Claire Sathe with her two daughters
Sathe, with her daughters Gabrielle, left, 4 1/2, and Juliette, 3.
Photo: Courtesy of Claire Sathe
It was then that Sathe started to think that in her next life, she would like to be a doctor. “I’ve always thought that there’s no better way to make a difference than to help people one at a time,” she says.  

Still, medical school seemed more fantasy than goal.  It wasn’t until she was pregnant with her first child in 2010 that she began to feel envious of the physicians who were caring for her and realized that this was her calling as well.

“I had really never been a patient but being pregnant and having kids exposed me to the medical world like never before,” says Sathe, whose daughters are 4 ½ and 3.  “I had great attentive doctors and admired the way they cared for their patients.” 

When she moved back to New Jersey and settled in Hoboken, Sathe and her husband decided that they could manage the household effectively if she attended medical school.  “Having had kids was a big part of it,” she says.  “I felt a new sense of freedom.”

Before applying to New Jersey Medical School, Sathe fulfilled three semesters of pre-med and math undergraduate requirements at Rutgers University-Newark, finishing with a 4.0 GPA and becoming a volunteer in the emergency department at Hoboken Hospital and for its emergency medical services.   

After completing all her requirements, Sathe was accepted just a few weeks before the current semester began. She is enjoying her new medical school experience and the novelty it provides her older daughter, Gabrielle, who regularly questions why she spends so much time studying.

“It’s a crazy amount of material, as much work as people say,” says Sathe, unsure of professional goals following med school. “But I love it and feel like I am the luckiest person that everything worked out so well and so fast.”