Residency sparks love story for Coastal Orthopedics spine specialist and his wife

Every relationship tells a story.

The couple meets, locking eyes for the first time, and with each passing moment, another page of the story unfolds. For some, it’s a romantic story of love at first sight. For others, it’s a tale of unrequited love that transitions over time.

But for Dr. Eric Sundberg, a spine specialist at Coastal Orthopedics, and Dr. Sharla Sundberg, a general surgeon for Pinnacle Group and the former Chief of Surgery at Blake Medical Center, their love story is nothing short of serendipitous.

The Sundbergs met in 2006 while completing their training at Stanford; and while there was a mutual attraction when they first met, the two doctors were so caught up in their training that they weren’t really looking for a relationship.

“The first thing I noticed was that he was incredibly handsome,” says Dr. Sharla Sundberg. “Obviously the more I got to know him, I learned he has a lot of values and sticks to them. He’s a man of backbone and his word matters. I had never met anyone who stayed true to himself the way that he did.”

“Early on, I think that was always going to be a possibility that we could end up together,” Dr. Eric Sundberg says. “It more or less developed, but when we first met I didn’t know how it was going to play out.”

A couple of months went by and the two gradually lost touch. It wasn’t until Sharla attended a party thrown by Google that her world changed for the better — and it wasn’t just the buffet that caught her attention.

During the party, Sharla ended up talking to a fellow attendee she hadn’t met before, but he knew exactly who she was. After all, his friend, Dr. Eric Sundberg, was in love with her.

The admission caught her by surprise. She had no idea he felt that way, but she wasn’t about to let an opportunity to reconnect slip by. A quick phone call later and Dr. Eric Sundberg joined the party.

The two began dating shortly thereafter and the rest is history. The Sundbergs were married in July 2010.

“It’s so serendipitous that I happened to meet his friend,” she says. “Eric is not rash. There’s nothing about him that makes a rash decision. When he makes a decision that’s it, and this was a decision for a lifetime.”

The Sundbergs love story has only grown deeper over the years, and with Valentine’s Day right around the corner, it’s the perfect time for the couple to remind one another of the love they share.

But while many couples put a strong emphasis on the holiday, the Sundbergs recognize that when it comes to marriage, every day is an opportunity to be with the person you love.

“Do you even know when Valentine’s Day is this year?” Dr. Eric Sundberg teasing asks his wife sitting next to him.

“We 100 percent know when it is, but we don’t put a whole lot of stock in Valentine’s Day,” says Dr. Sharla Sundberg. “We definitely go out of our way to tell each other we love each other; but if you’re doing a good job being a husband and wife then you should be thankful and grateful for every day and be who you are supposed to be every day.”

In addition to being there for one another, the Sundbergs are also fully committed to their patients. The two surgeons spend their days providing exceptional care to residents across the Gulf Coast.

Working in the same profession may seem like a recipe for relationship disaster, but the Sundbergs are quick to point out that the benefits far outweigh the challenges.

Sure, the Sundbergs both work extremely hard, often in high-pressure situations and are exhausted at the end of long day; but the two recognize that their partner feels exactly the same way and they can relate to one another in a way that no one else can.

“While extremely rewarding, being a doctor is stressful,” says Dr. Sharla Sundberg. “Patients don’t recognize how much we take home with us and how deeply personal it is have someone put their trust in you to take care of them.”

Both Dr. Eric Sundberg and Dr. Sharla Sundberg understand the emotional component of medicine and know when the other is worried about a patient. They know how to talk each other off the emotional ledge after a bad day, give each other a much-needed pep talk or help each other prepare for an upcoming surgery.

“I rely on her,” says Dr. Eric Sundberg. “She’s my best friend.” 

While their schedules fluctuate throughout the week, the weekends are the Sundbergs time to be together. Dr. Sharla Sundberg works hard to keep their schedules in sync, particularly when it comes to being on call, and makes sure they remain in touch with one another throughout the day.

Since both doctors have privileges at Blake Medical Center, the two often see each other while working in the hospital and will occasionally work together on certain cases. The Sundbergs relationship has even become a source of enjoyment for hospital personnel, who routinely pick on the couple and have even given them their own nicknames: “Heberg” and “Sheberg.”

“Eric’s the only person I do that for,” says Dr. Sharla Sundberg. “I trust him and he trusts me. It’s not only a statement of our working relationship but also the respect we have for each other’s abilities. He knows that I care about him and I’m always rooting for him.”

When the Sundbergs aren’t hard at work, they enjoy spending time relaxing around their Snead Island home with their two dogs, Wally and Delilah. They also enjoy being active outdoors and can often be found boating, fishing, riding bikes, hiking or running around the island.

“Our home is our safe place,” says Dr. Sharla Sundberg. “That’s where we want to be. We’re comfortable here. It’s a place where we can hermit and be thankful for the blessings that we have.”