2014 Best Doctors for Women
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509 physicians, nominated by their peers, recognized for both their professional expertise and their attention to the specific needs of female patients.
We asked a cross-section of the doctors named on this list, across a range of specialties, to tell us what excites them most about practicing medicine today, what advances lie ahead, and what single piece of advice they would offer each and every patient. We also shine a spotlight on the teams that help the best doctors do their extraordinary work—from the first phone call to schedule an appointment to the wrap-up after the office visit—through one of our Best Doctors, in her own words.
Q: What breakthrough in medicine do you see ahead?
"The most striking change since I started practice is the progress toward understanding how genetic mutations cause cancer and how they can be targeted to treat and prevent cancer." –Thomas Amatruda, Oncology
"Genetics, umbilical-cord stem-cell technology, and DNA research." –Barbara Toppin, Obstetrics & Gynecology
"3-D imaging capability for laparoscopic surgery. This technology is available but is not yet widely used." –Wanda Adefris, Obstetrics & Gynecology
"I think the most exciting breakthrough will be the further development of biological solutions to orthopedic injuries. We will be able to amplify the human body’s ability to repair articular cartilage, ligaments, and tendons." –Bradley Nelson, Orthopedics
"While still several years away, total heart replacement with a biologic/regenerated organ from a patient’s own stem cells appears within reach. This will dramatically change the lives of many who suffer from end-stage heart failure, who currently suffer great disability or die waiting for a transplant." –Sharonne Hayes, Cardiovascular Disease
"I believe that technological advances in insulin-delivery devices and glucose sensors will provide safer and more effective results for insulin-dependent diabetics in the future." –Chris Schoonover, Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism
"One of the biggest problems in reproduction, that we have not made much headway on, is the negative impact of aging. This is especially true for women. When couples delay childbearing into their late 30s and early 40s, they are already starting at a significant disadvantage. There is a fair amount of basic research in this area with hopes of finding a way to improve the quality of the remaining egg supply or somehow stimulate the development of new healthy eggs. This will be the only way we can overcome the impact of age on fertility." –John Malo, Reproductive Endocrinology/Infertility
Q: What is the most striking change in your medical specialty since you started to practice?
"We perform much less major surgery than in 1999 when I completed my training. As a result of improved interventions and options, as well as more involvement of women in their health care decision-making processes, we perform significantly fewer hysterectomies and other abdominal procedures." –Carrie Ann Terrell, Obstetrics & Gynecology
"When I first started treating breast cancer patients in 2002, there were really only one or two chemotherapy treatment options. These were applied somewhat indiscriminately to all women with breast cancer. We now have many, many more treatment options and more tools to determine who should receive them. Over the past decade, we have become much more intelligent and sophisticated in our ability to predict who has high-risk disease and who is most likely to benefit from which type of therapy. We have finally started to see ‘personalized medicine’ in action." –Michaela Tsai, Oncology
"The biggest change during my career has been the development and vast improvement in the success of IVF. I was present at the conference where Drs. Patrick Steptoe and Robert Edwards presented the world’s very first successful IVF baby, Louise Joy Brown. She is now in her mid-30’s and has children of her own. In the early years, IVF had only a 10 percent success rate and was only utilized as a ‘last-ditch effort.’ For such problems as endometriosis and tubal blockages, we often had to utilize major surgical options that were invasive and had low success rates. Most severe male problems were only treatable by using donor sperm insemination. We now can treat these problems quite successfully with IVF. Average delivery rates per IVF cycle are now in the 50 percent range." –John Malo, Reproductive Endocrinology/Infertility
"I am impressed with the increasing role that genetic testing and molecular markers are playing in individualizing treatment options for patients including: thyroid, diabetes, pituitary, and cholesterol issues." –Chris Schoonover, Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism
"There are many more non-surgical options to treat heavy or irregular bleeding—not everyone needs a hysterectomy. However, if surgery or hysterectomy is indicated, there is a [move] toward more minimally invasive surgery techniques, thus shorter hospital stays (often same day) and quicker recoveries—for patients, this means less time off from work and more time with families." –Sherry Paulson, Obstetrics & Gynecology
Q: What is the finding or treatment in your field that most excites you about practicing medicine in 2014?
"The ability to implant new heart valves percutaneously (through a tube in the leg) is a tremendous advance from open-heart surgery for high-risk patients. The technology is advancing rapidly and will quickly expand to a wider range of patients. The outcomes are very good and there are a lot of new valves being studied worldwide that are changing the options for patients and doctors treating heart-valve problems." –Pam Paulsen, Cardiovascular Disease
"We have seen a wave of targeted cancer treatments that have improved survival and quality of life of our patients, but the research findings that have me most excited are the new generation of immune therapies that have shown incredible activity in advanced cancers. We will be opening a trial… at Virginia Piper Cancer Institute with one of these agents, and I have never been more hopeful that we may be seeing a new era in cancer treatment." –Joseph Leach, Oncology
"Total joint [replacement] surgery in 2014 is what gets me excited. It is really gratifying to hear a patient say, ‘You gave me my life back.’ Refinement of surgical technique, improved instrumentation, and development of durable bearing surfaces have paved the way for more predictable, long-lasting results." –Randy Twito, Orthopedics
"I’m personally most excited about the work my Mayo colleagues and I have been doing to explore the causes and treatments of what was previously thought to be an incredibly rare type of heart attack called spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD). By leveraging novel methods such as social media, online patient communities, and the active participation by SCAD survivors themselves in developing the research, we have found not only that SCAD is not rare, but that it is likely the major cause of heart attack in young women. Our findings have already changed the way we diagnose and treat SCAD patients acutely, and our international DNA biobank and registries, the largest in the world, hold the promise of discovering the cause and, ultimately, preventing this devastating condition." –Sharonne Hayes, Cardiovascular Disease
"Urinary incontinence treatments are being developed that were never dreamed about years ago. Our clinic was one of the first in the state to perform surgery for urinary incontinence in the office using only local anesthesia! Patients can return to normal activities the next day. I could never have dreamed this was possible even 10 years ago." –Martin Immerman, Obstetrics & Gynecology
Q: What is the greatest misconception the average person has about your specialty or medical practice?
"People often ask me how I can be an oncologist, as it must be unbearably sad to care for patients who are dying of cancer. While there certainly are difficult conversations and difficult days, there are far more success stories and happy endings. Most patients diagnosed with cancer [today] will go on to live a long and productive life as a cancer survivor. I feel blessed to be a part of this successful journey through a difficult time and onto a more enriched and meaningful life. Alas, I cannot save every patient I see who faces a cancer illness, but I do have an opportunity to make a difference and have a meaningful impact on their life. I can treat pain, ease suffering, appease anxiety, help the family navigate care for their loved one, or simply listen." –Michaela Tsai, Oncology
"Most OB-GYN providers can continue to provide care for women beyond the reproductive/having-babies years. We provide well-women care during the perimenopause transition and well into the postmenopausal years." –Sherry Paulson, Obstetrics & Gynecology
"That the newest surgical approach, technique, device, or gimmick is not only safe, but superior to everything else. Certainly be an active learner and involved in shared decision making regarding your medical care...but also seek reputable medical advisors that you can trust for their wisdom, experience, and guidance." –Randy Twito, Orthopedics
"Childbirth has become so safe that most women do not realize that it can still be risky, especially if the woman has health problems such as obesity, hypertension, and diabetes." –Leslie Jaeger, Obstetrics & Gynecology
"The greatest misconception is probably that we have or will soon develop a pill to effectively prevent heart disease—I have patients who will admit they take an extra dose of their statin after a fatty meal! But really, the most powerful ‘medicine’ we have is within the control of each and every one of us. Healthy eating, regular physical activity, sleeping enough, and managing our stress are more effective over a lifetime than any pill that will ever be created. The challenge is that maintaining healthy behavior in our society is hard work. It takes time and personal commitment, and isn’t profitable or ‘sexy.’ It’s a harder sell, and it’s human nature to look to an easier solution, like popping a pill." –Sharonne Hayes, Cardiovascular Disease
Q: What is the single piece of advice you would give to every one of your patients?
"I think the best advice for patients for cardiovascular health and wellness is to realize the importance that psychological well-being has on physical health. Happier patients are healthier, more active and actually get better health care. Many of our symptoms relate to underlying stress and if we work on the stress, health outcomes are improved." —Pam Paulsen, Cardiovascular Disease
"Make yourself a priority. Studies have shown that women tend to be caregivers to others and put their own needs below those of family, work, home, and even pets! That can be a dangerous place for their health to be. Women often feel overwhelmed, and taking care of their health seems like one more ‘job.’ And if they do take the time, especially for wellness activities, they often feel guilty afterwards. We need to simplify the actions needed to prioritize health and well-being with coordinated appointments and convenient hours that are centered around the busy lives of women. If women are able to shift their thinking and we, as providers, center our care around them, they will realize that when they prioritize their health, they become much more productive and truly ‹present› in their roles. When you feel good physically, mentally and emotionally, you are able to bring more to all that you do. " —Kathryn Babich, Obstetrics & Gynecology
"Take care of your body... or where [else] will you live. Health and wellness requires active participation. Exercise. Get good nutrition. Stay well hydrated with water. Consider calcium and vitamin D to prevent fragility fractures in later life. Of course, no smoking. Lastly, do something fun...learn to dance! I had the privilege to dance with a patient on her 80th birthday. She had broken her hip two years earlier and required a hip replacement. She had cried that she would never dance again...but there we were, dancing!" —Randy Twito, Orthopedics
"Don’t look to the newspapers for medical advice. Unfortunately, there are many controversies in medicine that are played out for the general public in the newspapers. Many patients stop medications or fail to obtain screening tests because of something they read. We should discuss any changes in their medical management and come up with a plan before making a change based on a story in the news." —Martin Immerman, Obstetrics & Gynecology
"Many women have a healthy fear of breast cancer but in actuality most of us will die from heart disease or complications of diabetes. These diseases don’t have the fund-raising initiatives or marketing that research for breast cancer has, despite their seriousness. Women need to know that doing everything they can to reduce their risk of heart disease will likely lengthen their lives. Coincidentally, many of these same lifestyle changes lessen their risk for cancer, too!" —Carrie Ann Terrell, Obstetrics & Gynecology
"Learn to question you doctor and be your own advocate. My best patients are educated about their medical problems. When faced with a difficult medical situation, we work together to make the best possible choices." —Barbara Toppin, Obstetrics & Gynecology
"Seize the day." —Thomas Amatruda, Oncology