It was December 2009, right before Winter Break—that time when the holiday season, looming vacation time, and some fresh snow can give everything a feeling of sparkle and magic. Petra Jans Pederson ‘11 and Thomas Pederson ’11 went on their very first date—and it must have gone well.
The two high school juniors fell in love. They graduated from Colorado Academy the next year, stayed together long-distance through college, and got into the same medical school. Now, a decade later, they are married, pursuing careers as physicians, and still as in love as ever.
“I found my best friend and someone who I was never afraid to be myself around,” Petra says. “I was drawn to Thomas’s humility and academic drive, as well as his kindness toward everyone. CA certainly fosters these qualities in its students, so I am not surprised that we met at CA, and I am so thankful that we did.”
Thomas agrees: “I found one of CA’s best!”
Two doctors under one roof
Thomas is a second-year resident physician in Emergency Medicine, and Petra is entering her sixth year of an MD/PhD program with a focus on pharmacology and cancer biology. They’re both at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.
So, what’s it like being married, living together, commuting together, and sharing the same highly rigorous professional field?
“I love being married to another physician,” says Petra, who has completed her PhD and anticipates earning her MD in 2022. “I learn so much from Thomas, especially now that he’s further in his clinical training than I am. We are always challenging each other to excel in our work, but we are also each other’s biggest supporters.”
Thomas says he loved having a live-in study partner—“more like tutor!”—on the long journey of medical school. And now, he appreciates having an empathetic ear after a long shift in the emergency department.
Their home is a literal powerhouse of medical knowledge and skills.
“During my PhD, I soaked up all Thomas’s stories from the wards and the ED,” Petra says, “and now that I am returning to medical school for my clinical years, I feel incredibly lucky to have him as my built-in coach who knows exactly what I’m going through.”
Where to find mentorship, inspiration, and pure joy
Petra and Thomas connect deeply, not only through their burgeoning medical careers, but through what got them both there.
“My teacher-mentors at CA—Andres Roblero and Richard Kelly, to name a couple—definitely propelled me toward a successful medical career by helping me realize the importance of humility, lifelong learning, and attention to detail,” Thomas says. “Keeping these values in focus during medical residency has helped me avoid costly medical errors, develop rapport with my patients, and excel in the chaotic environment of the ED.”
And it was a CA program that helped Petra find her specialty in oncology. She shadowed a CA parent who is a pathologist and got to examine cancer cells under a microscope for the first time.
“That was the first time I really got a sense of the complexity of this disease,” says Petra, who was initially drawn to the field because her grandmother had cancer. “I knew that I had to learn more.”
Thomas feels grateful for the independent and critical thinking that CA faculty demanded from students.
“Soon, I will be responsible for independently managing critically ill patients,” he says. “In a work environment where there are no sure answers, I am thankful that I was taught how to think for myself.”
“Music was always there for me at CA, and I am forever grateful for that,” says Petra, who began singing in choir in the Fifth Grade with Vocal Music Director Cindy Jordan and continued to sing through college and med school. “Music has kept me grounded and given me joy during times of stress, and I believe that this part of myself will also make me a better doctor.”
A love that runs deep
Petra and Thomas have more than just their own connections to CA. Thomas’s twin brother, John Pederson ’11 and Petra’s sister, Jasmine Jans ’13, are also CA alumni, and Petra’s mother, Kimberly Jans, is a teacher there.
They credit this close relationship with the CA community—and the genuine caring and support that came with it—for the lives they’re leading now, as medical experts who not only practice medicine, but seek to improve the field with their own knowledge and expertise.
Their lives are busy, and as Thomas says, sometimes their intense schedules make them feel “like ships passing in the night.” But when the work is grueling, they take a break with their beloved pets: a shepherd mix named Stella, whom they rescued during their second year as med students, and a Siberian cat named Milo (who steals Stella’s food).
And they are anchored by their love for each other, a love that began at CA.