By SARA ARTHURS
Dr. Carmen Doty finds that women are more willing to talk about their own health issues than those from her mother or grandmother’s generation, who would just do what their doctors told them.
Women are “savvy” and are not afraid to ask questions, said Doty, an OB/GYN at Findlay Women’s Care. And of course, “now we all Google it,” she said.
Doty started the practice, previously known as Blanchard Valley Women’s Care, with then-partner Dr. Lorie Thomas, who is now at Blanchard Valley Health System. All the health care providers at the practice are women, as are all the other staff except for the CEO, Dennis Armstrong, who is Doty’s husband.
“We’re like a crazy, all-girl family. … We enjoy going to work,” Doty said.
Dr. Dawn Hochstettler, who is relatively new to the practice, said she was “really drawn to” Doty as well as the rest of the staff. She said it feels good to be with a group of women where “we’re going to get the job done and get business taken care of” — showing it’s possible to be good wives, good mothers and good doctors all at the same time.
Hochstettler said all the providers do a variety of tasks including delivering babies and performing surgeries and annual gynecological exams. She said she was drawn to OB/GYN over other medical specialties due to its mixture: some primary care, some surgery in the operating room. And, “Who wouldn’t love delivering babies?”
A safe environment
Hochstettler, who is 35, said older women may think that leaking urine or painful intercourse are just “part of getting older” and something they just have to live with — not knowing someone can do something about it. Younger women feel more empowered and willing to believe that just because we are women “doesn’t mean that we have to be uncomfortable.” And, she said, women are understanding more that they have the right to take care of themselves as much as anyone else.
“As women, you’re just so used to, your needs come last,” she said.
Dr. Molly Senokozlieff is in her second year at this practice. She, too, said seeing obstetrics and gynecological patients, as well as doing surgeries, offers a variety.
“No day is the same. … There’s never time for boredom in this line of work,” she said.
She has been delivering babies for years, but it never gets old. It’s “a miraculous experience” and she enjoys getting to be part of the special day. Childbirth can be “scary” for patients, and she works to take that fear away.
Senokozlieff said a lot of “sensitive issues” come up during an annual gynecological exam, too, and it’s important for women to feel comfortable. An all-female staff may help create an environment “that feels safe to patients,” she said.
Abby Maas, a nurse practitioner, was a labor and delivery nurse before doing this work. Now she primarily sees patients for annual gynecological exams as well as problem visits or concerns such as infertility. She, too, said women are becoming more open about their health issues.
“Years ago, you didn’t talk to your mom or your girlfriend about your periods” or what was going on in your body, she said. But today, women communicate and “talk more about what is going on with their families.” She said women talk more about family history, too, such as hereditary cancers.
Sarah Weihrauch, a physician assistant, said “certain issues that were never talked about” are being discussed now. Bladder incontinence is one example. Surgery, too, has changed, with more opting for laparoscopically rather than opening women up.
The Findlay practice is growing, with nine providers on staff. Doctors and midlevel practitioners deliver babies at Blanchard Valley Hospital and Mercy Hospital of Tiffin. They deliver about 60 babies a month — and the number is growing. Pictures hanging on the walls show babies that have been delivered at the practice.
Midwives deliver at hospitals, not at home, and under a doctor’s care. They can aid with vaginal deliveries. If they need assistance, or the patient needs a C-section, a doctor steps in.
The health care providers also perform surgery at Blanchard Valley Hospital, Findlay Surgery Center and Mercy Health.
Two years ago the practice opened Findlay MedSpa, a medical aesthetics practice driven by patient demand, Armstrong said. Sometimes a medical situation, like Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, can create an aesthetic issue like facial hair.
Vaginal atrophy, which can be a symptom of menopause, is treated by lasers. The practice also treats acne, cellulite and hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating. Last year they started offering tattoo removal, as there has been “lots of demand,” Armstrong said.
Carol Meyer, spa coordinator, said women are more willing to talk about the types of issues treated there, too.
The medical spa at Findlay OB-GYN is a separate business, and services are not covered by insurance. Blanchard Valley Health System also has a medical spa, called Beyond MedSpa.
‘The family business’
Armstrong, who is not a physician, is the only male among about 40 practice employees. This wasn’t a deliberate decision, but just how it worked out.
Working alongside his wife, he said, there is not a lot of separation.
“This is the family business,” he said.
Armstrong said it’s becoming more common that hospitals own medical practices. And he said as OB/GYN health care providers, Findlay Women’s Care doesn’t consider Blanchard Valley the competition.
“We’re all here to serve the community,” he said.
He believes Doty is exceptional as a business person though he acknowledged that, since he is married to her, he is “not impartial.”
Doty finished residency in 2002 and has spent her career in Findlay. Now 47, she plans to remain at the practice until she retires. She and the other providers there are friends and have children in the community.
In medical school, she had thought she wanted to be an oncologist. Then she did the rotation and “I cried every day.” During an obstetrics rotation, she realized that was what she wanted to do. Most of the time you have “happy, healthy patients,” and you get to help deliver babies, she said.
Doty said obstetrics is unpredictable: “Babies come when babies want to.” It’s taught her about letting life unfold, not trying to control it. Doctors can be Type A people, but “the baby’s kind of in charge,” she said.
There are challenges that come along with the practice, such as the time spent doing paperwork (though it’s now computer work). And an all-female practice means “a lot of estrogen in one building.”