Being the “go to” girl for my friends’ questions about their bodies, I was astonished at how little they knew about sex and what was “normal.”
Growing up as the daughter of an OB-GYN was a bit interesting. My friends would come over to our house and see Contemporary OB/GYN on the coffee table – complete with drawings of a uterus on the front cover, or maybe a woman giving birth! It was always a bit amusing explaining these images.
I remember being at the grocery store with my dad, and random women would approach him and start chatting about their kids, their pregnancies or things I didn’t quite understand. We would walk away and my dad would quietly say that was one of his patients. They always seemed ecstatic to see him, and to meet his children. It was clear that they adored him and valued him as their doctor.
When I was in high school and my friends and I began dating (and yes, becoming sexually active), I became the “go to” girl for questions. My friends would call me up and ask me all sorts of questions about their bodies, their periods, amongst other things. I would then go ask my dad and report back to my friends.
He was never judging or critical. He would give me straight answers to share with them. He didn’t ask which friend was asking either. It didn’t matter to him; he wanted to make sure that my friends and I had answers to our questions to make sure we could take better care of ourselves.
During those high school years, I was astonished to learn how little my friends knew about their bodies, contraception, sex and what was “normal.” I also realized that they felt they had no one else to ask, except for my dad (through me). They often felt embarrassed or ashamed to ask their questions.
I wanted to be an OB-GYN to help women feel comfortable with their bodies
In 10th grade, I decided I wanted to be an OB-GYN. Not that I simply wanted to be a doctor, but specifically I wanted to become an OB-GYN. I made this decision because I wanted to help women feel comfortable with their bodies. I wanted to help them understand normal physiology, contraceptive options, and empower them to learn how to take better care of themselves. I never once thought to myself, I want to grow up and be an OB-GYN because that is what my dad does for a living.
While in medical school, I remember going through my core third year rotations – surgery, internal medicine, pediatrics, OB-GYN, etc. I became a bit concerned when none of the core rotations spoke to me. My OB-GYN rotation occurred toward the end of my third year and, thankfully, I loved it. It just felt right.
I know, I know… people often ask how in the world I could enjoy my job. My answer is simple, “I don’t want to do your job and you probably don’t want to do mine!” Being an OB-GYN is literally the only job that I have ever wanted.
Throughout my education – four years of college, four years of medical school and a four year OB-GYN residency – my dad’s friends and colleagues would often ask him how I was doing. When he told them I had chosen to go into OB-GYN, they said things like:
“Oh goodness! Couldn’t you talk her out of it?”
“Does she know the crazy hours that she will have to work?”
“Does she understand how bad the medical/legal environment is for OB-GYNs?!?!”
His answer to all of these questions was simple: “She is doing what she loves.”
We’re the psychologists of the medical community
My parents divorced when I was in middle school. My mom, an elementary school reading and math teacher, often said, “Allison, you are such a good listener, have you thought about being a psychologist?”
I think she worried that I had chosen this career simply because it was my dad’s profession. I laughed and said to her, “Ummm, Mom, OB-GYNs ARE the psychologists of the medical community! Patients should feel comfortable discussing anything with their OB-GYN.”
After 12 years in private practice, I pride myself on my ability to connect with my patients. The long term relationships I have developed with my patients and their families are so important to me.
Talking with my dad throughout my education and my career has been so rewarding. He is retired now and in his 80s. He still attends medical conferences and lectures. We talk about new procedures, new medications and new developments in medicine. And he helps me remember the historical perspective of women’s healthcare.
I’m still the “go to” girl amongst my friends and family for women’s healthcare questions, and I love this role. People meet me socially and say, “Oh! You’re an OB-GYN! Your job must be so much fun!” My answer is often, “Well, most of the time…”
I feel honored to have learned from my dad. Listening to him on the phone as he called patients back. Hearing the empathy, compassion and knowledge he shared with them – through good times and bad. He set an amazing example for me, and I am honored to say that he is pretty proud of me, too.