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Love Under the Dome
In the labs, on the units and all around the campus, love is on the job

You’ve trawled the bars in Canton. Speed dating is now on your “To Don’t” list. You’re even thinking about getting a friend to nominate you for “The Bachelorette.” But wait. Could love lie closer to home?

This year, on Valentine’s Day, look around you. That guy you see every morning on the elevator. That woman you always notice in the cafeteria. Could he or she be The One? Perhaps you could find love right here, under the dome. These three couples did.

Amy Cocklin and Michael Cox on Broadway Pier, where he proposed.
Amy Cocklin and Michael Cox

They say it all began with the flirty toss of a Saltine cracker at the 2001 holiday party for the coronary care unit, where both work as nurses. When Amy turned 30 that February, a mutual friend invited Michael along for the celebration. Chatting about the pressures of the CCU, Amy and Michael discovered the pleasures of being on the same wavelength. “You can talk to your friend with a desk job, but it's just not the same,” says Michael. “It’s easier with someone who totally understands.”

It didn't hurt that both were self-diagnosed “sci-fi freaks.” Or that not long after that first “date,” Michael burned a copy of the new Star Trek Enterprise theme song and left it in her locker at work. “I kept playing it over and over again in my car,” she admits.

They flirted through 2002. It was on a balmy summer morning, after a long night shift, that they knew they had fallen in love. The two had breakfast at Jimmy’s in Fells Point. Then, clutching coffees from the Daily Grind, they sat in the hazy sunlight on the Broadway Pier and shared all.

On the unit, they kept their fledgling relationship professional; in the locker room they stole the occasional kiss. A romantic e-mail here, a playful PagerBox message there—the next thing they knew, everyone was asking why they were glowing.

By November 2003, Michael had set a dinner date in Fells Point. He had the ring. Amy kept calling to find out where they were going, but Michael didn't answer. “I didn’t realize he was at my parents’ asking permission,” she says. After dinner, Michael suggested walking down to the pier once again, and soon he started fumbling nervously in his pockets. When the pier cleared, he actually got down on one knee. Immediately, after she said yes, they called in the news to the unit, where the charge nurse announced it by overhead pager. The wedding is set for November.

Michael Polydefkis and Kelly Gebo: Their romance began in the lab.

Kelly Gebo and Michael Polydefkis

Many medical students dread the laboratory portion of their training—but not this pair. Kelly was pre-med and Michael was a second-year medical student at Hopkins when they began working in the HIV lab together. Soon they found themselves eagerly awaiting the days when their schedules overlapped. And both were privately surprised at the melancholy they felt when their lab partnership came to an end.

Luckily, fate intervened. The two discovered that Kelly’s friend and Michael’s roommate were an item—though on the rocks. Kelly and Michael were invited along on a double date to the movies with the doomed couple, to act as a buffer. “His roommate had always encouraged him to ask me out,” says Kelly now, “but Michael insisted I wasn’t the kind of girl you date but the kind you marry.” After the movie, the other couple headed off to talk, leaving Michael without a ride home. So Kelly invited him to her apartment, where they stayed up all night talking on her balcony in the mild spring air.

A cousin once told Michael about the first time he talked to a woman, his future wife, all night. How, Michael wondered, could you possibly talk to someone all night? But as he left early that morning, he finally knew what his cousin meant. Still, their first kiss left them a bit bewildered. “We were both so freaked out that we didn't talk for 10 days,” Kelly says, laughing. Michael ended up calling her anyway, and the two went to an Orioles game. After that, things, they say, “really took off.”

Less than three years later, they were engaged. To make it happen, Michael, then an intern in the Department of Medicine, had to make the ultimate sacrifice: Although he matched at his first choice in San Francisco, he withdrew his bid so he could remain in town with his fiancée. They were married in 1995 in the Adirondacks. Today, Kelly is an assistant professor in Infectious Diseases, Michael is an assistant professor of neurology, and they have a 4-year-old son and a 14-month-old daughter.

Georgean and Chuck Smith got to know each other over blueprints for the Outpatient Center.

Georgean and Chuck Smith

As a longtime financial manager in orthopedic surgery, Georgean always had a knack for perfectly pairing faculty with the right secretaries. But 20 years ago, she hadn’t been able to match herself with Mr. Right. True, she made sure she was color-coordinated every time she saw Chuck, that kind facilities supervisor she noticed around campus. She had no clue he was colorblind, let alone interested.

Then, in the early 1990s, both were involved in planning for the new Outpatient Center, and their paths began to cross more frequently. Finally, in the summer of 1995, after more than a decade of shy hellos and red-faced chats, Chuck made a move. They dined and they clicked. The next date, however, would be a tougher test: a departmental picnic. Chuck, it turned out, would be bringing one of his four kids from his first marriage.

He had cared enough to school the child in the correct pronunciation of her name (George-een), she discovered that day. And Georgean, who had no children of her own, soon made clear that the idea of a big, raucous family had always appealed to her. It was a perfect fit. And that’s how both of them describe their relationship, even after six years of marriage. “He’s the one I can’t imagine being without,” says Georgean. They’re practically inseparable—golfing tournaments, cruises, wine tastings, and always, the daily commute to and from Bel Air.

Chuck, now a project executive in Facilities Design and Construction, looks back to those early years when he admired Georgean from afar and envied the lucky man he assumed was in her life. “Now,” he says, “turns out I’m that lucky guy.”

—Lindsay Roylance



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