By Brianna Wilson and Allan Stone

Mutual Mentorship: Mother and Son Run Separate UNM School of Medicine Departments

Within The University of New Mexico Health and Health Sciences community, there are thousands of people with thousands of different personal reasons for entering health care. For two UNM leaders, their journey into medicine really began the moment they met—as mother and son. 

Eve Espey, MD, MPH is the chair for UNM School of Medicine Department of OB-GYN, and Nathan Boyd, MD is the interim chair of the School’s Dental Medicine Department.

“I’m really passionate about reproductive health, one of the things I have enjoyed most about my career is building a program that incorporates clinical care and education on reproductive health care,” Espey said.

Boyd, who is also the director of Thyroid and Parathyroid Surgery at UNM Hospital, specializes in oncology. “I just love taking care of patients,” he said.


Mutual Mentorship

Sitting by his mother’s side in her office, Boyd recounted a formative moment from his childhood, playing ping pong with Espey.

“She told me that anything I can do, she can do 10 times better,” he said with a laugh.

“I mean, he was six years old. So, I thought it was an appropriate time to really let him know,” Espey replied jokingly. 

Six years after that memorable ping pong match, Espey—who was a single mother at the time— moved a 12-year-old Boyd from Southern California to New Mexico, to start her career as an attending OB-GYN physician at the Gallup Indian Medical Center. A two-year contract turned into six, and before either of them knew it, Boyd was graduating from Gallup High; but not before declaring his plans to follow in his mother’s footsteps.

“He was in 11th grade when he announced to me that he was going to be a doctor, and I was absolutely thrilled,” Espey said. “Typically, boys follow in the footsteps of—well, not their mothers—so, that was a really nice moment, and I have totally enjoyed having a career in common.”

Espey’s life and career brought her to UNM shortly after Boyd received his high school diploma, but it would be several years until he would join her there.

“I’ll never forget when Nathan graduated from high school and was going to college in California, and I was moving to Albuquerque to take the job here at UNM and get married to my now husband of 26 years,” Espey said. “My car was pointed east, Nathan’s car was pointed west, and we were sitting on the porch swing. Nathan said, ‘Well mom, thanks for raising me.’ Then, off we went in our separate directions.”

Years later, Boyd’s path rejoined Espey’s. Professional relationships he formed with his otolaryngology mentors in medical school and an opportunity to be closer to his family drew him to Albuquerque to start his career as an attending otolaryngology surgeon at UNM Hospital. Even then, neither one of them said they could have predicted becoming chairs of different UNM School of Medicine departments at the same time.

While the mother-son duo have different specialties, their passion for delivering the best possible patient care is perfectly aligned.

“I have really loved it and love the diverse people that we take care of here and the education mission, the research mission, and it's been gratifying to see Nathan doing a lot of the same kinds of things,” Espey said.

Boyd said his mother was his primary mentor and the inspiration for his choice to pursue a career in medicine and now the two are colleagues who continue to learn from one another. 

We learn from each other, like all good relationships,” Espey said, looking over at her son sitting next to her. “Even before you were interim chair, but certainly now that you have had the rewards and faced some of the same challenges that I do, I learn as much from our conversations from you as you do from me. We have different perspectives. I think that is it -for parents and children to focus less on mentorship and just enjoying each other. That has worked for us to make the relationship sustainable."



Categories: School of Medicine, UNM Hospital, Women's Health