If I were to tell you that Lisa Tropez-Arceneaux, PsyD, and Janifer Tropez-Martin, MD, MPH, are sisters, it might mean to you that the two shared a common upbringing and may hold similar views in terms of family values. It might even tell you that the two stay in touch and visit each other at family gatherings. However, that description fails to even scratch the surface of the relationship these two successful women share. Both sisters are doctors practicing in the New Orleans area as well as mothers, and despite long, strenuous work hours, Tropez-Arceneaux and Tropez-Martin find time to raise their sons (twelve-year-old Maxwell and five-year-old Claiborne), assist New Orleans and global communities, and support each other in their daily lives.
The sisters were both born in North Carolina, though their mother is a New Orleans native. Tropez-Martin, the younger of the two, cites her mother (a pediatrician) as the source of her inspiration to study medicine, and after completing her undergraduate studies at Xavier University, she pursued a master of public health from Tulane and a medical degree from LSU. Originally, Tropez-Arceneaux had her sights set on law school, but while she was waitlisted at Loyola’s College of Law, she began teaching in the housing projects. This motivated her to pursue her master in English education. Her talent in working with troubled boys within the New Orleans school systems ultimately led her to the field of psychology, in which she earned a doctorate.
Both women found themselves training in Washington, DC, but, as Tropez-Martin says, “New Orleans has a way of drawing you back to it.” Her desire to contribute to the NOLA community led her away from private practices (like Ochsner) and towards Tulane’s community clinics, which target underserved populations. Currently, she is an assistant professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology at Tulane, and she teaches residents two days a week at the university hospital. She also has her own private office at Tulane, works with a New Orleans Vietnam organization to provide OB/GYN services, and on top of all that, “[she’s] actually helping a couple private companies develop some different medical devices that may help better serve women’s health in the future.” ropez-Arceneaux also gives back through her work with Physicians for Peace, through which she works with children who have been burned in all parts of Central and South America. Her missions to these countries also involve providing an educational component for the staffs of new hospitals being established.
When asked how many hours they work a week, both sisters laugh. Tropez-Martin states that her hours can range from as little as 50 to 60 hours a week to as much as 100 or 120, as she tries to be available to patients on a 24/7 basis. Tropez-Arceneaux’s answer is similar – though she puts in roughly 50 to 60 hours a week as a psychologist, the preparations for her missions can be lengthy. Moreover, in addition to the hours each sister contributes to her work, they must also find the time to raise their sons, especially since Tropez-Arceneaux’s husband (an engineer in the army) is currently deployed. Even so, the two exhibit an optimistic energy – they laugh at themselves and each other, maintain a positive outlook on their lives, and rely on one another to raise their children. They joke together about their constant texts and calls to each other throughout their hectic days, forgoing conversational niceties to ask favors (like picking up the kids). Though eavesdroppers may claim that they don’t have full conversations, these brief exchanges leave each woman with the knowledge of what she has to do, and that’s more than enough information. The sisters admit that their closeness is often intimidating for others, as friends must learn how to fit in to the preexisting relationship, but it is vital to maintaining balance in each woman’s life.
In between their busy schedules, Tropez-Martin and Tropez-Arceneaux steal some time away by themselves for a quick meal or cocktail during the day. Tropez-Arceneaux accentuates the additional importance of finding somewhere quiet to relax and collect her thoughts. She jests that she can sit in a bookstore for hours simply enjoying the silence or reading a novel. The women also try to plan just-girls trips together, the last of which was in September for Tropez-Martin’s birthday. The two went to Vegas with friends and had a blast. It’s clear that sometimes “me-time” translates into “sister-time.”
Even with the support of each other, the sisters agree that raising their sons isn’t an easy task. As Tropez-Martin admits, “I can’t do everything. I know I can’t, and I don’t want to.” After a long day of work, the last thing she wants to do is grocery shop or clean, but she finds ways to work around it. The key, she says, is knowing your boundaries. Tropez-Arceneaux adds that, sometimes, a lot of the frustration with raising her son Maxwell stems from the Y-chromosome. “I believe that the best way for a child to know how to treat a woman is how they see their father treat women. That’s the male role model.” With her husband overseas, Tropez-Arceneaux knows she must be there to mold Maxwell into a productive human being, but she must also learn to sit back and know when to react and when not to react.
Tropez-Martin agrees that the biggest challenge is minding her own behavior in order to model the type of person she wants her son to be. She acknowledges that she has difficulties in finding the balance between working and giving Claiborne enough attention and she also added, “My son is extremely smart, which is one of our biggest challenges.” With an advanced vocabulary and knowledge base, Tropez-Martin jokes that she often has to remind her son that he’s only five. The tricky part here is making sure that he is challenged at all times to keep his mind sharp and fresh.
Before the interview came to a close, both women gave their advice for first-time expecting mothers. Tropez-Martin laughs and advises new mothers to let go of their plans, as motherhood is rarely predictable. Tropez-Arceneaux recalls being scared to death and not knowing what to do, but she assures us that these emotions are natural. She urges expecting women to follow their instincts when it comes to their own child. “Because every child is different, you must listen to your own instincts for your own son or daughter. There’s no fool-proof guide to raising a kid,” she said. There will be obstacles to overcome and difficult periods, sure, but despite the challenges that come with raising a child, both sisters find their roles as a mother rewarding. “I will have a really awful day, and everything that my child is doing will annoy me. I will put that statement out in the air – text a friend, text my sister to tell them that…and then in the next moment, I will find something really incredible about being a mother,” mentions Tropez-Martin. Her sister states that the most gratifying part is her ability to forget her worries and her bad days when her son is happy. “If his day was good,” Tropez-Arceneaux says, “then my day was great.”