Empowering Resilience: Dr. Nicole Saphier's Journey from Medicine to Media

Insights into Motherhood, Mental Health, and Making an Impact
Nicole Saphier, MD
Nicole Saphier, MDFox News

In this candid conversation with Dr. Nicole Saphier, we explore the depths of her inspiring journey from a teen mother navigating the rigors of medical school to becoming a renowned radiologist and Fox News on-air medical commentator. Dr. Saphier shares the pivotal moments and motivations behind her career choices, the challenges of blending a family, and her passionate advocacy for women's health. Her soon to be released book, "Love, Mom," offers unique stories and perspectives from a diverse gathering of women on resilience, motherhood, and the power of support networks. Join us as we delve into Dr. Saphier's personal and professional life, uncovering valuable insights for women at every stage of their journey.


Dr. Saphier, your career has led you to become not just a doctor but a specialist in radiology and breast cancer. What inspired you to choose this path, and how has your personal journey influenced your commitment to this field?


From a young age, I was drawn towards the medical profession. This feeling started when I was around eight or nine years old. Initially, I had an interest in neurology and, later, pediatrics. However, my true calling became evident during my medical school years, marked by a personal and pivotal event. My grandmother, a reserved Italian woman who was reluctant to seek medical attention, was diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer. Tragically, she didn't survive, suffering severe complications from aggressive chemotherapy treatments. Her ordeal deeply affected me, reinforcing my resolve to prevent other women from facing similar fates. This personal loss ignited my passion for early detection of cancer, especially breast cancer, which is all too common, affecting one in eight women.

My career path was profoundly influenced by the desire to ensure no woman would ever have to question, 'What if I had gone to the doctor sooner?' Breast cancer affects one in eight women. Over the past 20 years, I've diagnosed breast cancer in women of all ages, from 18 to 90, from various backgrounds. The experience of detecting the smallest tumor in one of my best friends recently—fortunately at a very early stage—has been a highlight, emphasizing the life-saving potential of early detection. These experiences have driven my dedication to radiology, leading me to a five-year residency in diagnostic and interventional radiology, followed by an advanced fellowship in breast and cancer imaging at the Mayo Clinic. My journey in medicine is more than a professional pursuit; it's a personal commitment to combating breast cancer through early intervention."


Your journey through medical school was uniquely challenging as you balanced being a teen mom. Can you share what it was like navigating both roles during those years and any specific moments that tested your resolve?


Since my teenage years, I've always been that driven, 'on-the-go' type, constantly engaged in activities like competitive cheerleading, gymnastics, and academic clubs. However, my world turned upside down when I sustained a knee injury during gymnastics, leading to surgery and a premature, ill-advised return to the sport, which resulted in a second injury. This setback not only sidelined me from athletics but plunged me into a profound depression, challenging my identity and mental resilience.

During this tumultuous period, I became pregnant in my junior year of high school, which was a shocking and life-altering development. Despite the societal pressures and the drastic change in my life trajectory, my mother’s unwavering support was my guiding light. She assured me that no matter what decision I made, she would stand by me. This support was crucial as I chose to continue my pregnancy and welcome my son Nicholas into the world while still in high school.

Navigating teenage motherhood, I faced isolation and judgment, losing many friends and disconnecting from the world of athletics I once loved. However, the support of my family and a few close friends helped me through this period. My son's presence at my high school graduation, with my mother cheering us on, was a pivotal moment, symbolizing the beginning of our journey together.

Determined to defy expectations, I pursued my medical career without pause, even undergoing another knee surgery shortly after Nicholas was born. Balancing motherhood with college and medical school was challenging, especially as I navigated physical recovery and the demands of raising a child. But Nicholas was a part of this journey every step of the way, from undergraduate studies through medical school and beyond, growing up as I advanced through my medical training.

Reflecting on this journey, I realize how these experiences shaped my resilience and drive. My son's constant presence and support throughout my academic and professional milestones underscored the power of perseverance and the importance of a supportive network, which carried us through the challenges and led us to where we are today, with him now pursuing postgraduate studies.


Having had your son at a young age, how has your relationship evolved over the years, especially considering the unique circumstances of your early years together and your professional journey?

Nicole Saphier, MD
Nicole Saphier, MDCourtesy of Nicole Saphier, MD

My journey as a mother, particularly starting at such a young age, has been a continuous learning curve for both me and my son. Claiming to have been the perfect mother would be far from the truth; it's been a path of mutual growth and learning. There were moments filled with doubt, especially during the early years of medical school when I had to make the heart-wrenching decision to leave him with family temporarily. The thought of being away from him just to pursue my studies seemed unbearable at times, and I soon realized that my career aspirations could not come at the cost of our relationship.

We've navigated through numerous challenges together, from relocating across the country for my professional commitments to integrating new family dynamics with my remarriage and the birth of my two younger sons. Each phase brought its own set of trials, particularly in blending a family, which anyone who's experienced it knows it’s not a straightforward journey.

Through the years, my parenting approach has evolved. I've discovered more about what I value in raising my children and what I prefer to avoid. It’s a mix of retrospection and learning from the experiences we've shared. I've made mistakes and celebrated successes, but through it all, the bond with my eldest son has been the constant thread, strengthening as we've faced and overcome life's complexities together.


Your struggle with depression, especially as a young mother, is a testament to your resilience. How has this experience shaped your approach to wellness, both personally and professionally?


Dealing with depression, particularly as a young mother, truly tested my resilience and profoundly influenced my perspective on wellness. It’s common, I believe, for everyone to face mental health challenges at some point, whether it’s clinical or just feelings of anxiety or sadness. My journey included battling deep depression during my teenage years and experiencing postpartum depression with my third child, which was unexpected.

I’ve come to realize that overcoming mental health struggles isn’t as simple as willing yourself to feel better; it’s not just 'mind over matter.' It requires a concerted effort towards self-care and seeking support when needed, be it through therapy, medication, or both. My experience taught me the importance of a strong support network. For instance, during my postpartum depression, a close friend from medical school noticed my withdrawal and reached out. That act of care was a turning point, reminding me that I wasn’t alone in my struggle.

This journey has reshaped my approach to wellness, emphasizing that personal and professional wellbeing are intertwined. The external factors, like work or social media, often distract from what truly matters. I’ve learned to prioritize my well-being and focus on my core support network of family and friends. This shift in perspective has not only helped me manage my mental health better but also enriched my professional approach to treating and empathizing with patients facing similar challenges. It’s about balancing and nurturing the essential aspects of our lives to foster true wellness."


Building a Blended Family: Finding love and blending families is a journey with its own challenges and rewards. Can you share how you navigated creating a blended family and any advice for others on a similar path?

Dr Nicole Saphier and family
Dr Nicole Saphier and familyCourtesy of Nicole Saphier, MD

Creating a blended family is certainly a journey filled with its own unique set of challenges and rewards. I won't sugarcoat it; it's a complex process but immensely rewarding at the end. While writing 'Love, Mom' and speaking with other mothers in similar situations, I realized the common thread in our experiences: navigating the intricacies of blending families. Each story shared in the book revealed different challenges but also a universal truth—that we’re not alone in this experience.

Jill Churchill’s quote resonates deeply with me: 'There’s no way to be a perfect mother, but a million ways to be a good one.' This idea has been a guiding principle in my journey. Embracing the fact that perfection is unattainable relieves so much pressure. It allows us to focus on being good enough, which is truly what matters.

My blended family has become my strength, expanding my support network and providing a richer, more diverse experience for all of us. The process taught me that facing difficulties and working through them, although daunting, enriches your life in ways you couldn't anticipate. It’s not about choosing the easy path but the right one for your happiness and the well-being of your family.

So, embrace the complexities, lean into the support of your expanded family network, and remember that the ultimate goal is collective happiness and fulfillment. It may require navigating through tough times, but the journey enriches your family's life, making every step worthwhile.


Transitioning from a clinical and academic setting to becoming an on-air medical commentator is a significant shift. What motivated you to take on this role, and how do you see it as an extension of your medical practice?


Moving to on-air medical commentary felt like a natural extension of my medical practice. In the clinic, you're limited to the patients you can see in a day, but as a doctor, there's this inherent drive to help beyond the exam room. During my fellowship, I encountered the limitations of mammography for women with dense breast tissue, which wasn't widely discussed publicly. This realization that crucial medical information wasn't reaching the broader audience it needed to, sparked my interest in health policy.

I became actively involved in advocating for more transparent communication about mammogram limitations, contributing to legislation like the breast density law in Arizona and other states. This work made me realize the power of policy to effect change on a larger scale than individual patient interactions.

The transition to television was propelled by a desire to educate a broader audience. The idea that I could impact public health knowledge and decisions on a national level was incredibly appealing. It’s almost exhilarating, the prospect of educating and informing a vast audience on critical health issues. For me, this shift was a seamless progression of my mission to extend my reach and impact in promoting health and wellness.


Your latest project is a new book. Love, Mom explores the multifaceted experiences of motherhood, including postpartum depression, blended families, and more. Could you share something that particularly moved you or that you feel is especially important for readers to hear?


Love, Mom' is one of my most cherished projects, a collection of heartfelt and inspiring stories from mothers of all backgrounds, including some incredible personalities, patients of mine, gold star moms, and contributors who shared their experiences. Each story, each revision of the book brought a gamut of emotions – laughter, tears, and inspiration. Central to the book is a specially curated section filled with Bible verses, quotes, and pearls of wisdom from these diverse women, offering quick, accessible insights.

The diversity of experiences covered in 'Love, Mom' – from dealing with mental health issues and miscarriage to navigating divorce, adoption, and the journey through cancer – makes it a relatable and profound read. These stories forge connections, transcending the varied life paths of the readers and the storytellers. What's remarkable is the openness with which these women, including public figures, have shared facets of their lives never previously discussed in public, truly baring their souls.

The release is timed perfectly for Mother's Day. 'Love, Mom' resonates with anyone who has a mother, knows a mother, or desires to be a mother. It dispels the myth of a 'right time' for motherhood, illustrating that while becoming a mother shifts your life's focus, it doesn't necessitate giving up personal dreams. The book navigates the delicate balance between personal aspirations and the realities of motherhood, providing real-life examples of women who've successfully charted this territory. This work encapsulates the essence of motherhood's challenges and triumphs, embodying the spirit of resilience and adaptability that defines the maternal experience.


What advice would you give to young women who aspire to enter the medical field, especially those who may be facing personal challenges like you did?


In 'Love, Mom', we delve into the notion that aspiring to be a mother and pursuing a career aren’t mutually exclusive. You don’t need to sacrifice one dream for the other. The belief that it’s not the 'right time' for family or career is a common dilemma, but it’s possible to balance both. Women, I believe, have a knack for multitasking and time management, which is a tremendous asset in juggling personal and professional aspirations.

My journey wasn’t a straightforward path; it was filled with unexpected turns and challenges. Whether it was academics, not securing the desired internship, or navigating motherhood while in medical school, each experience taught me resilience and adaptability. Success isn’t linear; it’s a multifaceted journey with various paths leading to the same goal. 

My advice to young women who are entering the medical field, or any other field for that matter, especially those who are facing personal challenges, is to have faith in your ability to handle your responsibilities and aspirations. Surround yourself with a supportive network, believe in your journey, and don't let the conventional measures of success discourage you. Remember that your efforts to balance your personal and professional life, as well as your commitment to your well-being and happiness, are crucial. Your journey will be unique and filled with learning and growth. Ultimately, you must prioritize and continually work on yourself because your happiness and fulfillment are your responsibility.


Looking forward, are there any projects or advocacy efforts you are particularly excited about or feel are important for advancing women's health and representation in medicine?


It's interesting that you asked about future projects and advocacy, particularly in women's health. Over the past decade, dealing with my autoimmune disease has shifted my focus toward reducing inflammation and promoting wellness in my own life. This personal journey has highlighted the importance of proactive health measures rather than reactive treatments. In my daily practice, where I often deliver cancer diagnoses, I regularly encounter patients motivated to change their lifestyle post-diagnosis. It got me thinking about the power of preventative health care.

We live in a society that tends to overindulge, whether it's with social media, food, medication, or other substances. My aim has been to explore healthier living through more natural means, balancing this with necessary medical treatments. I’m not advocating for abandoning conventional medicine, as I, too, rely on it for my condition. However, integrating natural remedies like turmeric, ginger, and echinacea, which I've personally used to great effect, can enhance our overall health.

This experience inspired me to develop 'dropRx', a series of liquid herbal extracts that I’ve been using for years. I believe it's time to share these benefits with others. This project is fascinating for me because it aligns with my commitment to improving health outcomes holistically. 'DropRx' is about empowering people to take control of their health, complementing traditional medicine with natural remedies. I'm looking forward to its launch and the potential it has to impact physical and mental well-being positively.


It's been truly enlightening and inspiring to hear your journey and insights, Dr. Saphier. You are a remarkable source of inspiration for women at various life stages. As we conclude our conversation, is there any additional wisdom or message you would like to impart to the women who will be reading this interview? What final thoughts would you like to leave us with?


I want to emphasize a crucial point that often gets overlooked: none of us are navigating life's ups and downs in isolation. Whether we're experiencing the heights of joy or the depths of adversity, it's the collective journey that binds us. It's vital to lean on and draw strength from our support networks to ward off loneliness and despair. And when you find yourself in a brighter spot in life, it's just as important to extend your support to others who might be struggling. This reciprocal support system is what creates a resilient community. I've been on both sides of this dynamic—receiving support during tough times and offering it when I'm able. It's this cycle of giving and receiving support that fosters strength and unity. So, I urge everyone to remember the power of connection and community. Reach out, offer a helping hand, and together, we can illuminate even the darkest paths.

Nicole Saphier, MD
Charly Arnolt: Balancing Success and Passion

Become an Insider!  Step into the world of luxury with RESIDENT Magazine. Click here to subscribe to our exclusive newsletter and gain unparalleled access to the latest in luxury lifestyle, high-end real estate, travel exclusives, and so much more.

Are you interested in advertising with Resident? Email us at advertising@resident.com to learn more.

Related Stories

No stories found.
Resident Magazine