Yale Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies

Volume 5, Issue 2
spring 2015
Editor, Geetanjali Singh Chanda
Managing Editors, Linda Hase & Moe Gardner
Layout Design, Nick Appleby

Alum Spotlight: Kelly McMahon

Kelly McMahon

When I arrived at Yale, I believed that I was on the fast track to a bright future.  I met a dizzying array of fascinating and accomplished people.  I spent wistful hours reading the Blue Book.  I imagined myself becoming many different people – diplomat to Beijing, bohemian poet, computer scientist.  A few months into my freshman year, I could only manage this overwhelming panorama of options by staying in bed.  A couple of weeks later, I left school and spent nine months in a psychiatric hospital.  I wasn't exactly sure what the problem was but life just seemed too large.

When I returned to New Haven the following year, I started singing with the Slavic Chorus, a tight-knit group of women who became the core of my remaining time at Yale.  Many of these women identified as feminists and I found my way to the Women's Studies department. The rallying cry “the personal is political” had great meaning for me as I pulled together previously disparate components of myself – intellect, sexuality, personal history.   Here, I found relationships with teachers, classmates, and my work that were passionate, true, compelling.  This community grounded me.

When it came time for graduation, I had absolutely no idea how to move forward.  Again, I was drowning in my choices.  Over the next several years, I lived on both coasts and a couple of places in between.  I worked at various clerical temp jobs, attended graduate school to become a high school English teacher, and ultimately had a couple of jobs with small consulting firms. 

I found myself longing for the intense connection to my work that I had felt as an undergraduate.  I wanted to recapture the feeling that I was involved in something vital, something that really mattered.  I decided that I needed to make a big commitment to a pursuit that would wholly engage my emotions and intellect.  I landed in medical school. 

For the past 15 years, I have worked as a primary care internist.  Most of my day-to-day decisions are no more challenging than the selection of the best medication for an uncontrolled blood pressure.  But everyday, I am presented with dilemmas that require careful consideration and often an investigation of the literature.  Without question, the most rewarding aspect of my work is my relationships with my patients.  A medical exam room is the site of shared stories – some mundane, some profound.  I learned to listen to and value these stories as a Women’s Studies student.

Although I have not found a social community as rich as those I found in the Slavic Chorus and the Women's Studies department, I am in a good place.  The psychic chaos I experienced as an undergraduate dissipated after I was diagnosed with and treated for bipolar disorder.  I have just completed successful treatment with surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy for endometrial and ovarian cancers.  I have found a solid family life with my husband and stepdaughters.  I have forged a life that is calm and satisfying – not quite the one I imagined during my time at Yale but certainly a happy evolution from those days.
Find us on