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Lockport sisters will mend together; Docs-in-training will work at Catholic Health System

It's not at all unusual for a young man or woman to graduate from medical school.

But two sisters graduating from separate medical schools in the same month? Now that's something completely different.

And it's something for Dan and Kim Kremer of the Town of Lockport to be proud about.

In May, Ashley Kremer, 25, graduated from Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine in Erie, Pa., while her sister Kira Kremer, 24, graduated as a doctor of physical therapy from Upstate Medical University in Syracuse.

As it happens, the sisters both are on the payroll of the Catholic Health System. Ashley, the osteopath, has begun a three-year residency at Sisters Hospital, while Kira will be working at McAuley Residence in the Town of Tonawanda.

The sisters, who traveled to Hawaii together as a post-graduation reward from their grandparents, now are sharing a Buffalo apartment.

For Kim, a social studies teacher in Lockport schools, and Dan, disabled since being wounded by artillery fire while serving with the Marines in Beirut in 1983, it's a proud time.

"I thought it was fantastic. You couldn't ask for anything more from your kids," Dan said. "I was as proud as could be."

"Absolutely, but worried about the stress and the pressure and everything else," Kim added.

So how did both girls want to become doctors?

"My mom has worked in the medical field [as a nurse and later as a Blue Cross/Blue Shield quality manager]," Kim said, "and that's the only thing I can think of. I can't stand the sight of blood."

Both girls were strong students but followed somewhat different paths in high school. Ashley was interested in volunteer work, and in college she volunteered to work at a medical clinic in the Dominican Republic.

Kira was an athlete, playing lacrosse and running on the cross-country and track teams at Lockport.

"I wanted to get my physical therapy degree because I really enjoy running and really enjoy treating patients, and I experienced physical therapy when I was young and it did a great deal to help me," Kira said.

She was referring to a knee injury she suffered in 10th grade. Unfortunately, Kira couldn't remember the name of the therapist who helped her recover.

"Since I was a little kid," Ashley said, "I always took care of my brother and sister with any cuts and scrapes they had. As I progressed through college [at the University at Albany] I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do, and I joined the [emergency medical technician] service on campus. They had a volunteer ambulance service run by the students, and I became an EMT, and I really enjoyed that, so I decided to go to medical school."

She majored in human biology, "sort of an anthropology-biology double major," Ashley said.

Her goal, after a three-year residency at Sisters, is to open a family practice.

"Osteopathic medicine is a different kind of medicine. You learn everything that MDs learn, plus you get an additional 200 hours of training in osteopathic medicine. It's a kind of way to work with muscles and bone structure, another way of treating people," Ashley said.

Her hospital residency will expose her to all types of medicine, including the emergency room and intensive care unit, pediatrics and obstetrics, as well as family practice.

"We're capped at 16 hours a day and 80 hours a week," Ashley said. She also will draw "night float," which is a month of 12-hour overnight shifts.

Kira's work at McAuley Residence will involve "mostly patients who have just gotten out of the hospital, post-surgical and other traumatic events, and a lot of older patients."

She said she wasn't specifically looking for a position in geriatrics, but she isn't unhappy with how things have turned out.

"I'm kind of interested in everything right now. I'm hoping one day to either work full time for the Catholic Health System or the VA, the Veterans Administration," Kira said. "Maybe later on I'll be interested in clinical education and starting to teach people physical therapy."

Both women plan to stay in Western New York and build their careers locally.

"It's my home, and I like it here," Ashley said.

"I really love Buffalo and I want to stay around here. Family and friends are here. There's a lot more opportunity across the country, but I'd like to stick it out and find a really good job here," Kira said. "We have a lot of schools here, so there's a lot of people looking for jobs."

Ashley said, "There's a lot of patients in the Western New York area and a lot of older physicians getting ready to retire, along with the general population getting older, so more doctors are a need."

"They both worked their butts off to get where they are," their mother said. They earned a bunch of college credits through Lockport High School. The [advanced placement] courses gave them the confidence in the first initial years when it's hard to sort out what you want to do."

She and Dan have a son, Daniel, who just completed his sophomore year majoring in psychology at the University at Albany. "He says he doesn't want anything to do with doctoring," his mother laughed.