I am loyal reader of New York Times' Vows column and found a recent column to be particularly moving. So, sit back, relax and enjoy!
Elizabeth Greig and Jason Extein
By LINDA MARX
ELIZABETH GREIG and Jason Extein’s first date, in December 2006, occurred the night before she left for what until then had been her chief passion: improving medical care in Haiti.
So Mr. Extein, 28, was not at all surprised in January when Ms. Greig, 31, a fourth-year medical student at the University of Miami, abandoned preparations for their wedding and went to Port-au-Prince after the earthquake on Jan 12.
He had sensed her dedication from the beginning, and over the course of their relationship had entered medical school himself (he is now in his third year at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York).
“There were other people to work on the wedding, and Liz had so much to offer,” he said. “I told her if there ever was a time to go to Haiti, it is now. I expected nothing less from her.”
Ms. Greig, who grew up in Philadelphia and London and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, became interested in global health after working as a consultant to hospitals and colleges.
She took pre-med classes at the University of Miami before enrolling in the medical school, and as a medical student joined Project Medishare, a joint venture of the university and Haiti’s Ministry of Health. She made several trips to Haiti, and at the time of the earthquake had completed a 70-page disaster plan and was about to test it.
Mr. Extein grew up in Boca Raton, Fla. After graduating from Princeton he became a teaching fellow in New York and received a master’s in mathematics from St. John’s. But his father is a psychiatrist, and he began thinking about a medical career.
Mr. Extein had moved back to Florida when a childhood friend, Jonathan Neimand, invited him to a party at Ms. Greig’s Miami apartment in 2006. He was applying to medical schools and looking for a research job in the meantime.
“Liz was tall, beautiful, and I could tell right away she was an unusual person who had her act together,” Mr. Extein said. “And she made me laugh.”
After the party, he e-mailed her for job contacts but soon found a position on his own — at the University of Miami.
After gradually learning, as he put it, that they “had a lot of ridiculous things to say to entertain each other,” they had their first date, at a South Beach bookstore. At dinner later that evening, they discovered they shared more than a sense of humor. He had played soccer at Princeton; she was on the water polo team at Penn. And they both wanted to devote their lives to helping others.
When Mr. Extein’s Miami lease was up in June 2007, they agreed to live together until he started medical school. She said that when he left, she felt as if she had lost her sidekick, someone she could joke with after long, hard days of study.
They managed to see each other every couple of weeks, in New York or Florida. He proposed last April.
"From the beginning, there was no question in my mind that Liz was the right woman for me,” he said. “I never considered dating others after we met.”
She calls him “my family.”
“Every major step in my life, from becoming a doctor, to soon doing my residency in New York, to continue working in Haiti, is made around him,” she said.
She was in New York for residency interviews on Jan. 12. She hurried back to Miami and the following week was on a charter flight to Port-au-Prince with Dr. Barth A. Green, the chairman of the University of Miami’s department of neurological surgery and a founder of Project Medishare. “It was pretty surreal,” she said.
She added that while she felt a bit guilty about leaving the wedding plans to her mother, Margaret Greig, “I had an investment in Haiti before the earthquake, and my mom was an enthusiastic planner, so I was actually glad to divorce myself from the wedding process.”
She became Medishare’s chief administrative officer at its field hospital in Port-au-Prince, where she said there were enormous tents that looked like “big circus or wedding tents with cots and patients everywhere, 100 deep, awaiting services.”
Despite his wholehearted support, Mr. Extein admitted that he was worried about her.
“The day Liz headed down to Haiti, the 6.1 aftershock happened,” he said. “A few hours later, the news showed a few clips of guys walking down the street with machetes.”
He could not reach her for several days, and their conversations were very brief for some time after that.
“You could go 24 hours without stopping to eat or sit down, so I had time for only cold two-minute showers,” she said. She lost 15 pounds before her return and had to be refitted for her gown.
(The dress seemed to have an easier time. It had its own seat, next to a family friend, on a flight from Chicago to Miami.)
The couple was married Feb. 20 near the old Vanderbilt Mansion on Fisher Island off Miami Beach. Chris Sarquis, a Miami notary, conducted a short ceremony. In the mansion’s ballroom, Mr. Neimand, the only member of the wedding party (he called himself “best man of honor”), made the toast:
“Even though Liz and Jason are incredibly accomplished and giving, I think they will agree that their greatest success was finding each other. I am excited to see what they will do together.”
And after a brief wedding trip to St. Bart’s, they went to Haiti.