With all due respect to the best-selling book, everything you ever needed to know you didn’t learn in kindergarten… or high school or college either

By | 12.06.2018

I became a doctor because as a child I was convinced that I could do a better job than all the doctors that had treated me. I am sure that this must be a sign of a personality disorder, but it was a very useful one because it led to a rewarding career in adulthood. I remember thinking, “when I am a doctor I am going to LISTEN to my patients and BELIEVE them when they tell me what they think is going on.” Once I was in medical school I kept thinking, “I can’t believe that no one ever learns this in high school.” How the body works or what is termed human physiology in medical school is truly amazing, but possession of this knowledge really separates us doctors from our patients. The knowledge gap between most patients and doctors is so wide as to seem unbridgeable. Now, as a practicing physician, I understand how my doctors felt when they were treating me. It is easier and quicker for us (the doctors) to just give you the diagnosis and recommend the treatment rather than fully explain our rationale. Doctors give up their chance to educate their patients because they often feel like “where do I begin?” The result is that teaching opportunities are missed and the knowledge divide between patient and doctor persists. Patients may come away from the medical experience feeling uncertain that the doctor understood them and unable to explain what they just heard like I have in the past.

In my field of female pelvic medicine, the knowledge gap about pelvic anatomy and function has always especially bothered me. In science class the reproductive system was always left until the end of the year’s curriculum, so that the teacher never had time to cover it. Teachers and parents have always seemed uncomfortable talking about pelvic anatomy and function. It seems that the deficiency in our schools’ science programs is universal

because a large number of women I see are not aware of the names of their pelvic body parts or may be familiar with the names but can’t point out the specific body part. Sure you can learn this at home, but some of us never get it. I was lucky; my mother gave me information early and often. I recall the time that my next door neighbor’s mother called my mother in a complete panic over discovering that I had shared my book “Where Did I Come From?” with her daughter, Susan. Susan was my older friend, and her dad was a doctor. It never occurred to me that how babies are made would be a forbidden topic. After hanging up with Susan’s mother, my mom handed me a popsicle and told me that I hadn’t done anything wrong. I can’t imagine how my life would have been different if I had received anything other than that affirmation from her. From an early age, I wanted to share the knowledge I had learned. That urge has never left me.

I could not have written this blog earlier in my career. Although I had the book knowledge needed to write this after my fellowship, and I recognized the need for this kind of resource, it has been my maturation into a forty-something year old woman and mother as well as the clinical experience gained from almost a decade of specialized practice in the urologic care of women that made it possible. Women tend to be the best resource for other women. This blog is written for women and girls. It is for women like me who have been pregnant, borne children, had pelvic surgery, and are forty or older or who are just curious about the topic. It is for girls like I was: inquisitive, independent, and passionate about knowledge. It is for the women in stages of life beyond mine, who also have wisdom beyond mine, and haven”t given up wanting to know more.

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