Strengthening the Woman's Touch in Medicine

“One of the biggest challenges for any physician is the degree of complexity of patients with multiple medical problems,” says Dr. Lynn McGee. “Patients tell us they appreciate the extra sense of concern and focused attention they get with a female physician.”

By Barbara Bowen

“Women often actively seek a female physician,” Dr. Liezelle Jurgens remarks. “They feel we are empathetic, more engaged in listening, and able to identify with women’s issues. But men like to be listened to as much as women do.”

Dr. Christine Parker believes that women physicians tend to go beyond the clinical aspects of patient care, looking at emotional and mental factors that may be affecting health.

Dr. Kellie Jolley’s patients have said “Thank you for saying that!” when she has probed for lifestyle information and understands why they may be feeling tired and stressed. “We give them permission to be human, and then we give them the power to achieve excellent health,” she states.

Together these four physicians have over 50 years of experience practicing medicine. They provide care for patients in their office in the Memorial East building on Glenwood Drive, adjacent to Memorial Hospital. “This is a busy practice with a personal touch,” explains Sharon Stewart, practice manager. “Here you will find solid communication, hugs, effective listening styles, smiles, and compassionate interaction with patients, as well as aggressive, thorough patient care.”

All four doctors agree that the role of a good primary care physician is to educate patients about health risks and disease management and guide them toward good health. “We determine what is preventable, what is easily treated, and what requires further evaluation and management,” summarizes Dr. McGee. “Accurate diagnoses, treatment with referral as necessary, and health maintenance are our goals.”

 Motivations for a Career in Medicine

The four Memorial Health Partners physicians, each with a unique style of patient care developed through her own life experiences, are as different as their individual offices. The office décor reflects their personal tastes and backgrounds from the waiting room that looks like a large living room to the offices with African tribal art or Oriental handcrafts and the warm lighting and soft window treatments. The hallways and exam rooms have beautiful framed photographs of the mountains of New Zealand or tropical rain forests in Tanzania.

 Teacher and Traveler

Dr. Lynn McGee, world traveler and amazing photographer, started her career in biochemistry, but found it lacked a “relationship factor.” While she loved teaching, she didn’t care for the isolation of laboratory work. At family gatherings people would ask her what she was studying and their eyes would glaze over when she responded, “Hexadecyltrimethylammoniumbromide.”

After switching to a career in internal medicine, she likens her role to a teacher of bright students who can achieve so much more with inspiration and information. “I love patients who get serious about taking care of themselves, make changes for the positive, and see results. It is fabulous!”

Do male patients respond differently to a female physician? Dr. McGee believes that men may tend to put up less of a front with female physicians and are usually able to discuss difficult issues like incontinence, erectile dysfunction, and depression.

“Men have had female caregivers all of their lives. Often the wives are with their husbands, providing additional information,” says Dr. McGee, “When a concerned couple is taking care of each other, the outcomes are generally improved.”

 Medical Detective

Dr. Christine Parker is a native of Yorkshire, England, but don’t expect to hear a British accent. She grew up in Canada and spent her entire adult life in the United States. Her father was a chemist, her mother ultimately became an x-ray technologist, and an interest in science was always encouraged.

Her approach to medicine has been shaped by her personal experience. Both of her children suffered from infantile spasms at the tender age of six months. An effective treatment was elusive, and she remembers how it felt to be a helpless parent, searching for a medical treatment with specialist after specialist.

Inspired by Albert Einstein’s memorable quote, “The important thing is to never stop questioning,” she pushed for answers and finally discovered her children had a rare genetic defect that responded to high doses of vitamin B6. The treatment plan had immediate success.

Because of that experience, she is tenacious about finding answers for her patients. “I’m an investigator looking for information that will result in effective treatment,” Dr. Parker explains. “But most of all I want to help them avert a catastrophe.”

With experience in intensive care medicine and at Memorial’s primary care clinics, Dr. Parker has seen the end result of people who were physically falling apart with conditions that could have been prevented. As a medical provider, she found preventive medicine to be more meaningful to her.

“Today the accessibility of screenings makes it easier to diagnose a problem well in advance and take steps to prevent serious problems,” says Dr. Parker.

 Interpreter for Individual Health

Dr. Liezelle Jurgens is originally from South Africa, near Johannesburg, and was only eight years old when she started accompanying her doctor dad on his weekend hospital rounds.

“My career in medicine was preordained,” Dr. Jurgens admits. “It’s a family thing. My brother is a psychiatrist, and I married a primary care physician who is now practicing in Hixson.”

Dr. Jurgens feels it is important to treat every patient individually. “All your patients might have high blood pressure, but each one is different in how it affects their lives,” she says. “We have to treat the whole patient. There are no cookie cutter treatment plans.” Like a big puzzle, she tries to get all the pieces in the right place for each patient.

When she has both the husband and wife as patients, she finds that talking to them together often helps fill in the blanks on difficult issues like sexual problems and sleep issues.

“So much information is in the news about wonder drugs with multiple side effects, or standard medical treatments being challenged in their effectiveness,” Dr. Jurgens points out. “Patients feel free to bring their questions to us, and we can help them translate this information to see whether it is relative to them.”

 Consultant for Long Life

Dr. Kellie Jolley always loved science. She grew up in a small town with a doctor who took care of the whole family. “He was a happy guy with a happy practice,” she says, “and it inspired me to become a doctor.”

Today she finds that many women gravitate toward female physicians for the basic gynecological screenings and to take advantage of the shared, and sometimes very personal, knowledge with regard to menopause, breast health, and osteoporosis.

Dr. Jolley has a particular passion to help patients understand the link between hypertension and kidney disease. “High blood pressure damages not only the blood vessels in the heart, but also the vessels and filters in the kidney,” Dr. Jolley advises. “Patients must take ownership of the need to keep the heart, brain, and kidneys healthy.”

Dr. Jolley believes that physicians are essential consultants to help patients understand their bodies, manage diseases, and take care of daily living beyond prescription medications. “We want them to have the opportunity to live a long and full life,” adds Dr. Jolley.

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