Committed to Global Health, and Each Other

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Dr. Courtney Jo Pedersen saw Edward Collin Bearnot as more of an obstacle than a potential suitor when he offered to buy her a drink during a meet-up of Yale’s graduate men’s and women’s rugby teams in September 2015.

“He was standing between me and the dance floor,” said Dr. Pedersen, who had been wearing a fleece Hello Kitty onesie for a pajama-themed evening with her teammates.

She declined the drink, but the two started talking. Mr. Bearnot, who had just started his M.B.A. at the university, shared his idea for a nutrition-focused company in Bangladesh, where he had been living for the past three years.

Dr. Pedersen, who was pursuing her master’s degree in public health, was not convinced. She had seen companies “push for profit without seeming to care much for the local population” when she was a preventive health volunteer with the Peace Corps in Senegal, and was concerned Mr. Bearnot’s company would function similarly.

“She gave me a hard time,” Mr. Bearnot said. “And I was super into it.”

Mr. Bearnot saved his number in Dr. Pedersen’s phone under the contact name “Eddie a.k.a. The Best Looking Rugby Player” and texted her a few days later thanking her for her candor. They made plans to meet up two weeks later for what Dr. Pedersen thought would be another in-depth discussion of global development ethics, and what Mr. Bearnot hoped would be a date.

Both turned out to be right. During their eight-hour first date — drinks, dinner at Modern Apizza and more drinks — Mr. Bearnot, who grew up in Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y., and Dr. Pedersen, who was raised in Bloomingdale, Ohio, bonded over their shared desire to improve health around the world in a thoughtful way. “It was really nice to meet someone with a similar vision,” Dr. Pedersen said.

Dr. Pedersen, 35, attended Stanford University School of Medicine and is now a resident physician in the department of emergency medicine at Brown University. Mr. Bearnot, 33, is the co-founder and chief executive officer of the company he pitched to Dr. Pedersen the night they met: Frontier Nutrition, which manufactures affordable, nutritious foods to prevent malnutrition in Bangladesh.

They dated while at Yale, but the distance between Palo Alto, Calif., where Dr. Pedersen moved to attend medical school in 2016 and Dhaka, Bangladesh, where Mr. Bearnot moved to start his company in 2017, initially prevented them from committing to a long-term relationship.

Still, they called each other at 6 a.m. or midnight to breach the 13-hour time difference, quietly working side by side over FaceTime and starting their own two-person book club.

In March 2018, they got together for good. “His communication skills are really incredible,” Dr. Pedersen said. “I think one of the reasons why we survived such a long distance was because we dug in really deeply and worked through everything over 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 its nerves. While Mr. Bearnot experienced paralysis of his arms and legs and one side of his face, Dr. Pedersen spent most nights sleeping by his side.

“She stuck with me during a time that was really scary and uncertain, and cared for me in very physical and pragmatic ways,” as well as providing emotional support, said Mr. Bearnot, who regained full movement of his body over the next six months.

While in the hospital, they looked at engagement rings online. They moved into Dr. Pedersen’s apartment in Palo Alto together in March 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic.

“You’re not going to propose, are you?” Dr. Pedersen asked shortly before Mr. Bearnot proposed during a cliff walk along the Prouts Neck peninsula in Maine in October 2020. “No, no, no,” he responded.

Two months later, the engaged couple welcomed a pit bull, Cocoa Bunny, into the house they now share in Providence, R.I.

On July 30, the couple were married at Marble House Project in Dorset, Vt. Rabbi Edward Schecter of Temple Beth Shalom in Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y., officiated the outdoor ceremony before 150 vaccinated guests.

Dr. Pedersen and Mr. Bearnot have traveled to 10 countries and 10 national parks together. Dr. Pedersen said, “We are at our best when we are hiking and are having …”

“New adventures together,” Mr. Bearnot said, finishing her sentence.

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