Ohio National Guard News

Swapping a cap and gown for a hospital gown

Story by Stephanie Beougher, Ohio National Guard Public Affairs

Ohio Army National Guard 1st Lt. Sara Stigler recites the oath administered by her mentor, retired Col. Steve Ulrich, to become a field surgeon on May 19, 2018. Stigler, still in her hospital gown, had given birth just hours before to her first child at Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati. (Courtesy photo)

While she didn’t get to attend her graduation from the University of Cincinnati’s College of Medicine on May 19, 2018, because she’d just given birth to her first child earlier that day, Ohio Army National Guard 1st Lt. Sara Stigler wore her cap and gown to pose for her son’s 1-month photo. (Courtesy photo)

Ohio Army National Guard 1st Lt. Sara Stigler and her husband Curtis Maples hold their 2-month-old son Blaise Carver Maples on July 19, 2018. Blaise, who was born the day Stigler was scheduled to graduate from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, is named after French inventor and mathematician Blaise Pascal and American inventor and botanist George Washington Carver. (Courtesy photo)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (05/19/18) — In just a matter of a few hours in one day, Ohio Army National Guard 1st Lt. Sara Stigler reached three major milestones in her life — all while wearing a hospital gown.

“It is definitely a day I will never forget,” Stigler said.


It all started on Friday night, May 18, 2018, when Stigler started going into labor with her first child. She texted her administrative officer, Capt. Amanda Harder of the OHARNG Medical Detachment. based in Columbus, “Definitely not coming to drill… water just broke and we’re at the hospital now.”

“For her to contact me the day she was going into labor says a lot about her as a Citizen-Soldier, and it shows her loyalty to the Ohio National Guard and her duty as a Soldier to keep her unit and her first line leader informed of her situation,” Harder said. “I’m excited to see what the future holds for her as she continues her career in this organization.”

In addition to drill that weekend, Stigler was also scheduled to graduate on Saturday, May 19, from the University of Cincinnati’s College of Medicine. Instead of wearing a cap and gown, she was at Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati wearing a hospital gown.

At 3:14 a.m. Saturday, just hours before her scheduled graduation, Stigler and her husband Curtis Maples welcomed their son Blaise Carver Maples, named after French inventor and mathematician Blaise Pascal and American inventor and botanist George Washington Carver. Graduation went on without her.

“Honestly, I wasn’t that disappointed to miss graduation. The thought of sitting through a long ceremony at nine months pregnant was not really appealing, and Blaise was a great graduation gift,” Stigler said.


Stigler has been participating in a medical student resident program at the Medical Detachment that enabled her to learn more about being a Soldier and a medical professional. She’s been paired with Dr. Steve Ulrich, a family practice doctor and a retired colonel in the Ohio Army National Guard, who has served as her mentor throughout her journey in medical school and in the National Guard.

Ulrich and his wife made the trip to Cincinnati from their home in Perry County to attend Stigler’s graduation. They happily switched plans to visit the new mom and her baby in the hospital. Ulrich suggested that while he was there, he could swear her in as a field surgeon. So, just four hours after giving birth and still wearing a hospital gown, Stigler raised her right hand and took the oath while her husband, Ulrich’s wife Terri and three hospital security guards looked on as witnesses.

“It was a very special moment,” recalled Ulrich. “It is the unique blend of military tradition, adaptation to circumstance and flexibility. My wife and I were honored to be a part of the joy of the day and help a Guard Family celebrate both accomplishments.”

At first, Stigler said, she was a little embarrassed, “because, let’s be real, you don’t feel beautiful just a few hours after giving birth.”

When she saw how excited everyone was, and with her newborn son in the room, it no longer bothered her.


Stigler will be doing her residency in family medicine at Christ Hospital in Cincinnati, while juggling duties as a new mom and a field surgeon. She acknowledges it will be the support of her husband and a great network of friends that will help her find the right balance between work and family.

“Serving my county had always been a desire of mine, and I was really drawn to the Guard because of the idea of being able to help my local community in times of crisis. Becoming a physician has also been a long-term dream of mine and joining the medical corps was the perfect intersection of both of those goals.”

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