Committed to global health and to each other
Dr Courtney Jo Pedersen saw Edward Collin Bearnot as more of a hindrance than a potential suitor when he offered to buy him a drink at a meeting of Yale’s graduate men’s and women’s rugby teams in September 2015.
“He stood between me and the dance floor,” said Dr. Pedersen, who wore a Hello Kitty fleece jumpsuit for a pajama-themed party with her teammates.
She refused the drink, but the two started talking. Mr. Bearnot, who had just started his MBA at university, shared his idea for a nutrition-focused business in Bangladesh, where he had been living for three years.
Dr. Pedersen, who was pursuing her master’s degree in public health, was unconvinced. She had seen businesses ‘seeking profit without seeming to care much about the local population’ when she was a preventative health volunteer with the Peace Corps in Senegal, and feared Mr Bearnot’s business would operate the same way. .
“She gave me a hard time,” Mr. Bearnot said. “And I was great in it.”
Mr Bearnot saved his number in Dr Pedersen’s phone as the contact name ‘Eddie aka The Best Looking Rugby Player’ and texted her a few days later to thank her for her candor. They planned to meet two weeks later for what Dr Pedersen thought would be another in-depth discussion on the ethics of global development, and what Mr Bearnot hoped would be a date.
Both turned out to be right. During their first eight-hour date — drinks, dinner at Modern Apizza and more drinks — Mr. Bearnot, who grew up in Hastings-on-Hudson, NY, and Dr. Pedersen, who grew up in Bloomingdale’s, Ohio, bonded over their shared desire to thoughtfully improve global health. “It was really nice to meet someone with a similar outlook,” Dr. Pedersen said.
Dr. Pedersen, 35, attended Stanford University medical school and is now a resident physician in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Brown University. Mr. Bearnot, 33, is the co-founder and CEO of the company he introduced to Dr. Pedersen the night they met: Frontier Nutrition, which makes nutritious, affordable foods to prevent malnutrition in Bangladesh.
They dated at Yale, but the distance between Palo Alto, California, where Dr. Pedersen moved to attend medical school in 2016 and Dhaka, Bangladesh, where Mr. Bearnot moved to start his business in 2017 , initially kept them from committing to a long-term relationship.
Yet they called each other at 6 a.m. or midnight to break through the 1 p.m. jet lag, quietly working side-by-side on FaceTime and creating their own two-person book club.
In March 2018, they reunited for good. “His communication skills are truly amazing,” Dr. Pedersen said. “I think one of the reasons we survived such a long distance is that we dug really deep and worked everything out via FaceTime.”
A health crisis in June 2019 solidified their commitment to a future together. Shortly after his 30th birthday, Mr Bearnot was hospitalized for 58 days with Guillain-Barré syndrome, a neurological disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks his nerves. While Mr Bearnot suffered from paralysis in his arms and legs and one side of his face, Dr Pedersen spent most nights sleeping by his side.
“She stayed with me through a really scary and uncertain time, and looked after me in a very physical and pragmatic way,” in addition to providing emotional support, said Mr Bearnot, who has regained full movement from his body over the next six months.
While in hospital, they looked up engagement rings online. They moved into Dr. Pedersen’s apartment in Palo Alto together in March 2020, at the start of the pandemic.
“You’re not going to propose, are you?” Dr Pedersen asked shortly before Mr Bearnot proposed during a cliff walk along Maine’s Prouts Neck Peninsula in October 2020. “No, no, no,” he said. he answered.
Two months later, the engaged couple welcomed a pit bull, Cocoa Bunny, to the home they now share in Providence, RI
On July 30, the couple married at the Marble House Project in Dorset, Vt. Rabbi Edward Schecter of Temple Beth Shalom in Hastings-on-Hudson, NY, officiated the outdoor ceremony before 150 vaccinated guests.
Dr. Pedersen and Mr. Bearnot have traveled together to 10 countries and 10 national parks. Dr Pedersen said: “We are at our best when we are hiking and we have…”
“New adventures together,” Mr. Bearnot said, finishing his sentence.