Erin Williamson and Asher Marks

Recorded March 15, 2021 Archived March 15, 2021 43:49 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: ddv000561


Spouses Erin Williamson (40) and Asher Marks (41) reflect on the years spent together, highlighting pivotal moments in their lives.

Subject Log / Time Code

AW and EW share first memories of one another.
AW reflects on their decision to specialize in Pediatric Oncology.
EW shares her experience working with trafficked persons.
EW and AW celebrated their 12-year anniversary.
EW and AW discuss the different roles technology plays in their lives.
EW and AW share advice for mitigating and handling trauma in their professions.


  • Erin Williamson
  • Asher Marks

Partnership Type

Fee for Service


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00:05 Hi, my name is Erin Williamson. And today is March 15th. 2021. I'm 40 years old and I'm here today with Asher marks. Who is my husband today is March 13th, 2021. I am 41 years old and I'm here with my wife and wings and so we have been married a long time. Over 10 years. We've known each other since we were thirteen. So, almost 30 years.

00:45 You were the new girl, you were short.

00:50 I think your braces.

00:55 And I think my first memory to actually talk into you is in the cafeteria Bala Cynwyd, middle school and we have mutual friends, but we're like really friends friends. And I remember the first like decision I had to make about you is whether or not to invite you to my bar mitzvah record her. She didn't do it. I didn't know it was very,, very limited space, remember that? I will back at you. So I remember I was knew I had just moved from Minnesota to Philadelphia, which is a pretty traumatic move for me. And I like I had all these new people coming at me and I don't. So I don't have a lot of memories of individual. I feel really overwhelmed, but I do remember that you are part of this group.

01:55 A boys that you're still friends with today, but there was like this, very tight group of boys that are friends. And in my mind, you are all just kind of one person. Like, all kind of just this one group together. I also remember talking to you in the cafeteria. So I'm wondering if it's the same conversation. I remember explaining to you, and Anatomy part that you seem to not know a lot about, but it was high school, high school. Yeah. It's a little concerning that you started. Figuring out a doctor, right? So, when did you decide you were going to be a doctor, but did you always know?

02:55 I think I went through.

02:59 It may be high school where I was thinking about journalism, which actually ended up serving me. Well, they still write quite a bit. But yeah, I do something. Always came back to my vision was that are like my my childhood pediatrician. My goal is to take Lily hunger shingle like you weren't in the basement of his office and and either way you working this entire house in like just don't like the edge of West Philadelphia in the suburbs. And so he surged like two very different populations that I thought was really cool. And and that's what I thought I was going to do send it to Pediatrics.

03:50 I'm my father's was probably going to do. Yeah, I always knew I was going to be a not. I didn't know it was going to be a social worker. I thought it was a therapist, but then when I went to college and I explained what I wanted to do, right? So the people in the psychology department, they were like, you need to go upstairs yourself. Or, I mean, in hindsight. I was at a small liberal arts school. I was lucky. They even had a social work program Skidmore, and you. And then how do we reconnect? You were my sober driver?

04:41 Magistrate. So definitely many mutual friends. It's where I was working at congresso. So it was that organization that serves the Latino community in North Philadelphia.

05:07 I'm trying to order order things. I think, at one point you were living in Mexico.

05:21 So what my name. Can I buy myself to Mexico? Yeah. Yeah. Okay. So so there was that whole thing and then

05:42 Oh, we were saying. Hello. Yes. I was I was studying for my GRE. He's going to go to grad school at the medical boards. And everyone else was kind of hanging out. And we both had to study movie about a murder child. Yes. That was a good first unofficial date, I guess. Cuz we both are nothing to his I go. Let's just go hang out and we get there. I know it story. You're going to go.

06:31 I think you're really going to like this. I saw it last week with my mom and I really want to see it and I was like, it's a movie. We saw last today. So obviously, that's where I get back.

06:50 Beautiful. So then. Okay, we're now together. We're now like dating for a while. And how did you decide that you are a doctor that works with pediatric brain cancer has brain cancer and there's a lot of trauma involved in the ass, but I'm curious how you are. Why you had to call. I guess I am curious. How did you get to the point that you knew you wanted to do? The beer is very specialized. How did you know, what was the process to get there? You told me I could do anything. I wanted as long as it wasn't bring tester. So that's what I did. The first talked about how you got there. And then I mean, like I said, I was looking for relationships with my patients and and so I wanted to kind of do with my patients.

07:50 And so, it was, I need to Prime Care, Pediatrics, Physicians academic, anything like that. It was kind of like, Josh is good job. That's what you do. And when your doctor at work internal medicine, so I my residency was in DC. It was actually focus on primary care and probably my second or third year. My my primary Mentor. Ellie hamburger is an amazing Primary Care, pediatrician in DC. She called me Alex. She she like to do she got me alone in the car. She asked for a ride and she turned to me and she's like, what's going on. I feel like your passions gone. Like you're not you're not there anymore.

08:41 And like that, just open up the floodgates at like I was feeling like I wasn't getting the time of the pictures. I need it. Like I wasn't getting into relationships like everything's superficial and around the same time. It's not the Primary Care Pediatrics. It's just something that I, I couldn't do it for many reasons, just not, I wouldn't be good at it. I think, and that's with around the same time. I was doing my apology rotation and it was the hardest location. I had mentally physically emotionally, but for some reason, I love that, I love the science. I love to fish in interactions. And so I end up doing that fellowship and then I had to amend their brain, rude, who I just connected with more of an emotional personality level. I'd like to think, then then academic, or her medical kind of followed his path on the other brain tumor thing and I love doing it because it's it's not very much not. It's

09:38 Pretty much it as much as I hate the metaphor words, very much Journeys with families from that day, when diagnosis to, you know, either five, ten years out and follow up or, or unfortunate sometimes that it's at a time and then you came home. So my father passed away when I was really young a brain tumor, so of another term of that went through his brain, so, but so, I most like that, bring some people to the medical field. It was like, I swore I would never be at the doctor. So it was like one by one. Okay. Fine, I'll date you. Cuz you're that you despised the fact that you're a doctor.

10:36 All right, you're going to go into Pediatrics. Awesome. That's cool. I can get down with that. I like kids. I was working with kids. Then it was like, I'm going to go in time ecology, don't go into brain cancer. And then when you came home and told me, I'm going to go into brain cancer. It was like

10:54 Are you kidding me? It was like, I literally cannot win, but I was in too deep now, I think so. So I work with trauma as well, and mines. Also children. I work with kids who have been trafficked. What's it? What does that mean? What does traffic mean? If I think a lot of people have a different thought about what that actually is in the US. And it does look a little different depending on where you are located, but basically it is the exchange of its when a child for I'm going to have children cuz there's different forms of traffic. So it's been a child.

11:48 Exchange of some sort of sexual act, in return for something commercial, some commodity of value. So, sometimes there's a third party, that facilitates, that exchange, that's call the traffickers. I'm sometimes there's not a third-party sometimes people in this name it and they call it child prostitution. But as we say, there's no such thing as child, prostitution is victimization and I'm, and I've always kind of similar to you. I've always, I do know, he's always been do child trafficking write like, you're going to get it, right.

12:37 Yeah, that's up at your email. But like you work on one of the first people to do, that's a Polaris.

12:43 Yes. Yeah when I said when I went abroad for my study abroad I went in college I went to Kenya and and I work a street children. Do you have to go off and do come back with like a research paper? That was part of your study abroad program and I worked with with boys and girl Street children and the girls would talk about stories about how the best way for them to stay safest, was you either form a group of girls with an individual male who basically traffic them or to be a wife to a group of boys and to engage in sexual relationships with them and end, because the police were so brutal. And it was then that the only way they could stay safe from the police, and they were just so crap. So, so that's how I got into kind of child, sexual exploitation. And then yeah, I came back and I, I went to beatdown

13:43 CA after I got into my graduate school program and I work for another organization before Polaris, where I did research on child sex tourism, which was very, it was the first Department of state funded research in this area. And then, when I graduated, I went and work for Polaris, ironically, I was their development director, which didn't fit me, well, which is why I didn't stay too long by Polaris, like now flowers is seen as like this large National hotline, but that's not what you remember. No offense is amazing place. But, but yeah, it has a frat house. Feel all the relationships were intertwined between work and social. It's like the good old days.

14:43 We want to go to coffee shop work, but the internet, there didn't work. So now we have kids, we got married, we had kids and how long we've been married.

14:58 Are you kidding me? I think, I know that we got married on June 21st. It's over 10 years because I know he's gone. Maybe we're coming up on us, 12. I think we're coming up on I-12. We fast-forward, you're still doing pediatric brain cancer, and I'm still working with children who have been trafficked. And now we have two kids. One is 9 + 1 is 5. There's a

15:43 What is having a real girl? How did having our own kids change year?

15:55 Setting before having kids. It was much easier to compartmentalize.

16:04 You have no sense of what that love is for child. Before you have them. I do remember times of giving a diagnosis appointment for it and just showed up like Siri that well that that you can see your parents give when it's bad news about their child and that would get to me but otherwise have been compartmentalize pretty well. Now I

16:35 I struggle more, I find myself having to distance, more to avoid burnout. I find myself struggling, more with children and families. That remind me of ourselves on cumin. I'm not going to deny that that happens. If it's something that I myself didn't see more from them and it's hard because you like want to hang out with you you like that before that relationship by myself to something more? When I know a patient has a worse prognosis. That's probably not but it's much easier now working out.

17:15 But how many what percentage of your kids died?

17:20 Of my kids, I'd say.

17:25 I got 20 to 30%, I what?

17:31 Maybe a little fast, but yeah.

17:35 And do you remember a time interacting with our kids, where your work like hate you or vice versa? Are there times? I think I'd have to I was just so overwhelmed with emotion, with their kids are not just walk away. And can you give me an example?

17:59 I mean, why I lost a patient about 2 or 3 years ago. I got very close to and was Judaism was so I was over there. All this one's age.

18:11 And had similar characteristics and it was a way that I knew she was going to die and I was hanging out with you and I just saw mannerisms that were just very similar and I was like, this is just this is too much and that's walk away. And there are times when I think that does not make me a great father, talking to a kind of protect myself because I just love you so much and I know it.

18:39 I'm at I think something bit my relationship with how about you?

18:46 Yeah, I mean, I I also think it was much easier before I had kids before I had kids, I kind of

18:55 Yeah, you just you don't you don't have the same type of connection to the parents and you don't even always I think about how it was before it was me. I was the kid cuz that's the only way I could relate. Like, I know what it's like you did and I don't without a license, right? So mostly I license a broad. I worked with younger kids, but now I know it was like, that was me, right? Would that it happened to me? That's how I really did to the kids. Now. I relate more to the parents and an end that shift has been has been hard. I do remember, there was one. So we have programs in the Philippines and the UK. And in the US, we mainly work with adolescents Broadway. Mainly work with younger kids. I remember there was one time where

19:49 We got a bunch of there, had been a great and we got a bunch of kids into their UK, safe home. And some of those kids. They said, were under the age of one. And I remember I came home and I was changing our youngest ones. Diaper and I was like, looking at her vagina and thinking like I don't understand how you can look at this and like. Yeah. And like it was like I

20:22 But I was imagining our child being victimized, and that was really like traumatic. Because then it was like, I can't, I can't live this lie. I can't do work and raise my kids. If

20:36 I'm like bringing all the victimization home and then importing it on to our children. And so that was a really hard moment. And honestly until our youngest got out of diapers. That was a very common thing that happened to me when I was changing her diaper. Where I would just like to have to actively be. Like, I'm not going to think about this because otherwise I just yeah, it just it is a trigger for me.

21:07 What do you think our kids know of our work?

21:13 It's it's it's deprivation rate as I think that Joe lzz knows, she's, she's five. She's you know, she should get that. Daddy, the doctor and mommy help people.

21:26 Have you met that man out there been times when I've had to when I've been on call and have been like a new diagnosis in the emergency room and I had to go in and she's starting to question a little bit. Like, why do you need to go? It's more for the only, why does daddy have to leave? You know, why do you need to go with what, what's going to happen to this little preoccupied with that right now as we age. So I think she's starting to kind of think more with your work much harder to explain my work when you leave he asked me is that kids going to be okay?

22:11 He definitely got it. I don't know if you did feel like my patience. I don't know if you'd like. Let himself never be there. The weekend, forecast for the funerals. That I purposely never told him. I was going like, I just want to protect him all the time, but he's getting to the age where, where we can't. He knows I can cuz I work with cancer and I'm definitely watching, listening to my conversations on the phone more.

22:59 Yeah, it's weird to think that they're like unlike other kids. You probably don't know. Kids can get sick and die, our kids know, from a really early age that some kids get sick and die.

23:23 They're much less than your work cuz my work smart abstract. They understand what that doctor is. I have stopped because Jude is now starting to like do a few games with you on technology or hip, he can log into my phone or this year. He had to do a couple of weeks remote. I have started to have conversations to say, mommy works with children, who sometimes, get hurt, because they meet people, they don't know on the internet. And so are we have had conversations one day? He came home and him and his two friends had decided they were going to create a YouTube video and they they knew that they couldn't post it till they were 13 and this is what he tells me and we're going to not post it until we hit 13. And I was immediately like now and he was like why? And I was like, you're not going on YouTube like you're not

24:23 Who sings on YouTube, we don't do that. Like, that's not something you're going to be allowed to do and

24:29 He was just devastated like broke down into crying like Devastation. The guy had just ruined his and and I had to like figure out how do I explain to him that I'm not going to. So I said to him, you know, look, dude, you have to understand that there are going to be things that your friends are going to be allowed to do that. You're not going to be allowed to do because of my work and because I work with kids who have met people online and really gotten hurt, and I don't want you to get hurt. And but then I also did say, let me, you know, do their parents know what's happening. Why don't you get their parents number? And then I can talk to their parents about what's happening and we can see if we can come up with another plan. And that was the end of that conversation. I'm either he didn't get his grandparents number.

25:29 Or it just was 9 year, old boy stuff in it, died out the next day and they forgot about it. But that was, that was definitely yet. I am, I think we're going into it. With Jude where he already understands enough about your work, and, but it's abstract and it doesn't impact him, but he will start to resent my work.

25:54 I can with what I mean. I think you were not sure about that too weird, very different relationships, with technology Spectrum. I kind of know it's going up and actually, you're heading virtual reality therapy and you're very tech-savvy, your integrated into your work it and you should. Should you try to get it out of your house.

26:24 Yeah, I think I think I can end up being a good balance cuz it introduces the kids to it with these cabinets on Jude's computer and you were like, it's totally locked down because he has a school ID and he's using his school ID to go on Chrome and I look up corn and what what did you find and you are a text Abby Perrin?

27:03 So this is why I never liked me for gout, so so I'm not saying, it's not what I think both on extremes.

27:18 Yeah, I mean I would also say that you are that way with our kids and they get L. Like, if they have a car, you think they're dying? How many times have you thought that our kids have cancer?


27:45 And do you really think? But I felt like there was a 20% chance that this could be something really bad and like, you know, French or more General traditions in like

28:06 3M in Athens Olympics prevent you from becoming a both of us have talked about how we are a lot of friends and a lot of colleagues who have burned out.

28:30 Like, I am trying to figure out what what makes you say that we have been burnt out. What does Burnout look like in your field. I think we've experienced periods of burnout, but I think we've generally rebounded, icing people, leave the field completely, or I've seen people become so pessimistic about either their work with you clients or their field. In general, all they do is complain and they don't or all. They do is see the negative and they can never see the progress and the positivity and the in the positive impacts that we're having. And I think when you're only seeing the negative, and the challenge, it's always focused on that. Then I think you're burned out because we are we done. I mean like you were saying and I Ivan, I'm not that old. And when I started the anti-trafficking work, that was not like, you didn't get into anti-trafficking work, that was nothing. There. Weren't a lot of people gunning for these jobs now.

29:30 Did I talk to kids in college and then and I'm literally, like, I don't really know because I didn't have this issue. So, I mean we've made tremendous progress in the anti-trafficking movement. So, if you're somebody, that's only talking about how much more there is to do without ever stepping back and reflecting on the progress. I think you're burnt out.

29:52 Did you think that you've avoided burnout by doing that, by going back? And looking at the progress has been made?

30:00 I think, honestly, I think yeah, I think also having kids has really helped me like as much as challenging as having kids. Are they absolutely make you be present, a do not care about your work. They do not care if you have a grant report jail, and so I really had to learn that if I'm going to try to be a good of a mom, as I want to be a good vibe, a colleague and advocated that I want to be. I have to set very clear boundaries, so that when I'm in either of those rolls, I'm trying to be as good as I can. But they when they blur, when I'm trying to do both of those rolls at the same time, that's when I really screwed things up.

30:46 I we don't know for sure.

30:57 So that. So that's what you think keeps you from burning out, just the kids being able to be present. How about you? What is burnout look like for you guys? I feel burn out either becoming completely disconnected. Losing all empathy.

31:27 And I think a lot of times that happens from pee with with workload and and the you know, Jen with electronic medical records and didn't go into the field to do. I don't think it's necessarily quite frankly from the cancer in Lost, I think.

31:46 You know, that's what we went into field to do and and the emotional stress of a conductor make those other things are her. So it's either that and remaining in the field or it's it's leaving for something else. Whether that be insulting or working for a pharmaceutical company, with it, brings better hours a much better pay. So I was very few people and there's nothing wrong with it.

32:27 That's what it looks like.

32:31 And what do I do to prevent? I think

32:37 Being an introvert at you. For me. A lot of preventing burnout is finding time for myself.

32:45 You know, of course, I love spending time with my family, but I think also finding time for myself for other hobbies and interests is what helps me. I planned it like

32:56 I think a good example is is shower time. So I think we'll be able to see some of their best thinking in the shower and most days. I think about, if I myself think about working a shower and that will often get me in a rough mode for the morning. But if I change that Focus to something else like movies or video games or you're doing something Outdoors, road trip is coming up. Just something for myself. I'm able to kind of flushed a little bit better today. Just go ahead and and I'm thrown into everything else.

33:40 Yet you also benefit. We both do for my exercise. It's not one thing. You need to. You need. It have like ways that sometimes you come home you get in your pajamas. When we had yet. That's hard. Especially for you exercise right now. You're doing better than I am with excercise. I think living where we live at your house cuz he live in the middle of nowhere. Literally DC which I absolutely loved. It was one of my favorite places I've ever live to a place where there are no Street there. No sidewalks. And no street lights.

34:38 Any credit that is true, but it is the middle of nowhere being away from things. I I will say, I do think it, it allows you some space to be reflective and to contemplate a little still really challenging for me that I can't walk anywhere or go get coffee or that I sometimes see turkeys outside my window and they're on my roof. But yes, when you think about like other people that are coming into the field, what advice would you give them especially around trauma and dealing?

35:26 To have your habit system, have your support site be back up. Like know what you're going to do to deal with that, when it comes to come.

35:35 So don't let it surprise you make it part of your daily kind of practice. So I think one thing that's interested in going back to our relationship and secondary traumas is we don't talk about work at home very much at all Ms. Intentional.

35:59 Yeah, but I think there's also like an understanding of like, if one of us says, I have an emergency. There's a respect. You don't pull the emergency card unless you actually have an emergency, but we understand what? Theoretically wasn't like when you were returning gift cards, all in labor. When I was giving when I was still working while giving childbirth that. May have been a boundary Creek when we talked about it and we just have a healthy baby. So yeah, that was challenging. Also when we got in the fight about whether our kids were more likely to get cancer.

36:59 More sexually abused. So long before we realized that was a mess of conversation. Like we were, we were like 20 minutes into it. Yeah. I thought we talked about cancer and he's pretty good. But I thought that the traffic traffic and I think it would be more complicated because we don't have very that numbers, but they're definitely more likely. Just you know, that's like a legit challenge for us. I think if I was going to talk about like talk to my younger self or talk to people coming into the field.

37:57 I think what I would say is there's going to be really hard days and there's going to be days that will literally take your breath away where you're not sure how to move forward. When you put, you could theoretically become Frozen and immobile. And and I think that you just have to know that those days are not the majority.

38:24 And that there's also like these really awesome moments. Like one of the things we haven't talked about is how awesome the families and they use that we work with are like, how many times have you belly laugh? When you're working with a Academy? Because they've said something that was just like Ludacris by there. So funny and they're so and when you have your successes are I have mine. Like those are also like the best pies. So I mean for sure what I can comprehend about how you deal with the work a deal with. I can come home and say Jesus is just bad luck. Like this is not a reflection on Humanity or people wear as the work that you do is the result of someone being awful.

39:22 And yet, I think we both have very different views of humanity in general where you were more optimistic about. You, hadn't even more pessimistic than that, always blows me away. And I definitely couldn't do your job either. I definitely couldn't go into the hospital or do is coming home, you know, to the three of you in total Mayhem and not knowing how to how to help what to do. Either of those things are that having a parent die when you're young and having experience that type of trauma and then working in a field related with trauma.

40:08 I think that I think about life differently. I think that I am. I'm able to realize that like, we are all going to die and I'm and I'm okay with that in a different way. I guess my, in my final question is where if you could like paint the future, what would you paint for yourself in 5 years and every time I get to like a stage in my career or doing what I want to be doing, I just keep

40:49 Thinking about, what else I want to do. Cuz I'm always, I'm always happy where I am. So. So despite being ambitious. It's not like, I'm not happy doing what I'm doing. So, in in 5 years, I'd like to see ya. See our program, be bigger, have more treatment options for my patients. Be involved even further in developmental Therapeutics. And then, you know, that the work I do with incorporating a digital Technologies into supportive care of that. And then just really hopefully finding ways to be more presents wall. Doing all that be more present at home and less stressed and more pre-show, but I have

41:40 That's all I know. Big is 5 years. I think if I was going to go paint my future for 5 years, I think.

41:51 Well, obviously I'm I am big on evidence-based and I want I want the field to become more evidence based. So I'm, I would love to see not just our programs become evidence base, but I would love to see many programs in the fields become evidence-based, because I think that that's how we start eradicating trafficking, right? We start by having evidence base programming both as preventive and also that can help kids, who have been exploited. I kind of go on and live. Hopefully, I have a life where they have addressed the victimization R and end helpfully Incorporated it into their life.

42:33 I think at home gosh, in five years. We're going to have a teenager. So in sooner than that, I think at home, my my whole world is going to know, Judy Jones going to be a problem, but you won't be a teenager yet. And she's that's like a whole nother story. I've already talked to local law enforcement about her, but it'll be a teenager and I do, I really hope that I can balance.

43:01 My fears and tribulations and my knowledge of the internet with his mental health and wanting to be social, and have a positive and normative relationship with his friends online, social apps managing. That will be a very thin past. But something I'm I'm hoping that I can navigate.

43:32 So yeah, it's been fun talking with you. It's been. Alright. Thanks.