It may surprise you to learn that WholeHealth Chicago has been trying to find the right gynecologist to join our group for more than 16 years. “What?” you ask. “Why so long?”
We did know we needed one. Just sit in our waiting room or shop the apothecary and it occurs to you that a lot of women come to WHC. Why haven’t we had a gynecologist? There are reasons for this:
- Integrative physicians of any specialty (primary care, gynecology, pediatrics) are in very short supply. Integrative physicians are comfortable with and confident about recommending alternative therapies (nutritional counseling and supplements vs. prescription drugs; chiropractic, Chinese medicine, and energy therapies like Healing Touch vs. back surgery). Integrative cardiologists and surgeons are virtually non-existent.
- Once a young gynecologist finishes her training, she’s usually snapped up by one of the big medical groups, offered a generous salary, and is busy from Day One. She needs the salary to repay her student loans (often more than $200,000) and needs the group to fund her malpractice insurance. The group usually has specific rules against using integrative therapies.
- If she wants to learn integrative, functional, and alternative therapies, she’s on her own. If she does pursue this path, after years of self-study she realizes she’ll never get to use her new skills unless she opens her own office. Because she’s likely still paying off medical school debt, she doesn’t have the capital to accomplish this. There are probably quite a few young gynecologists who are fairly knowledgeable about integrative medicine, but they’re stuck in a massive, conservative system. Many would like integrative options to be part of their everyday practice, but the medical group has no herbalists, no homeopaths, no energy healers.
When Andrea Lee, MD, board certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology, sent over her curriculum vitae (which included training in integrative medicine) along with a cover letter asking if we were considering adding a gynecologist to our staff, I didn’t shout out loud, “For 16 years, Dr Lee! Where have you been?”
Instead, we called her.
Her credentials are a perfect fit for WholeHealth Chicago: Pre-med at Northwestern, majoring in psychology. Medical school at Southern Illinois University, from where she graduated with honors in Obstetrics/Gynecology, Pediatrics, Family Practice, and Psychiatry.
Her OB-GYN residency was at Georgetown University in Washington, DC (1992-1996), where she served as chief resident in 1999 and received awards for outstanding resident (2000) and best resident teacher (1998). She also did volunteer OB-GYN medicine at a mission hospital on St. Lucia in the West Indies in 2000.
Dr Lee began her career as a staff physician in OB-GYN at Washington Hospital (2001-2003) but had always been interested in community medicine, caring for the medically underserved. In 2003, she joined Chicago’s own Erie Family Health Center, where she continues to practice primary care OB-GYN medicine and supervise the midwives and residents.
Birth center project
For the past several years, her dream has been to open Chicago’s first birth center. Because we don’t have many birth centers in the US, many women have never heard of them. Imagine a beautifully designed building, more like a home than a hospital, where you receive all care from midwives and doulas, rarely needing actual intervention from a physician. I’ve visited several birth centers around the country and generally they look more like Caribbean resorts than hospitals. But despite their upscale appearance, birth centers are available to everyone.
Dr Lee has made good progress with her birth center project, and her ultimate goal is to serve as a birth center medical director, supervising and teaching the ancillary staff.
While working at Erie, Dr Lee began her study of integrative medicine and recently completed the Integrative Medicine Scholars Program at Northwestern.
Dr Lee will start at WholeHealth Chicago one day a week (gynecology only, no obstetrics), and she’s accepting appointments now. She’ll do all the procedures you might expect: annual exams (Pap/HPV), IUD insertions, biopsies, colposcopies, and the like. But unlike most area gynecologists, you’ll also be able to get bioidentical hormone therapy, an herbal recommendation, or a referral to an acupuncturist, homeopath, nutritionist, or energy healer.
We’re really excited that Dr Lee is joining us!
David Edelberg, MD