photography by KIM BILLINGSLEY
Doylestown Women’s Health Center has a well-deserved reputation for being one of the Greater Philadelphia Area’s pioneers in women’s health. History aside, the practice continues to take bold leaps forward. One recent example: the introduction of the Stork Club, a resource implemented to provide women with all of the information needed for a healthy, uncomplicated pregnancy. Another: The center partnered with the Central Bucks Family YMCA to offer pregnant women a complimentary three-month trial so they can maintain their health.
Although much has changed throughout Doylestown Women’s Health Center’s decadeslong history, one thing has remained consistent: the commitment to providing care of the highest quality. Recently, the practice has evolved into a practice run by women providing care to women. This attribute enables them to not only empathize with their patients, but also provide compassionate and caring service in a way that best serves their patients’ needs.
In the past two years, the practice has welcomed two new practitioners—Drs. Candice Loughery and Zahra De Four—into the fold. Though they differ in terms of experience and background, they share a passion for women’s health issues. We spoke with both doctors to hear more about their entry into the field of OB/GYN, their thoughts on the advantages of an all-female practice and recent breakthroughs that have helped the practice provide a positive “birth experience,” among other advances in women’s health.
Why did you choose OB/GYN as your specialty?
Dr. Zahra De Four: There were a couple of different reasons behind my decision. I’m from Trinidad, and I’m aware that health care there is a bit different. Growing up, I always felt as if I had different questions I never felt comfortable discussing with anyone other than my parents. I wanted to be that person for someone else in my situation, who didn’t have that comfort of speaking with a trained professional. In addition, I had an interest in the field of obstetrics, and always wanted to be a part of delivery and caring for pregnant patients. I also wanted to get into women’s health care because I didn’t feel that women’s health care was particularly strong where I was raised.
Dr. Candice Loughery: Going into medical school, I didn’t actually know I would end up in OB/GYN. During my rotations in medical school, I fell in love with working on the labor floor—I thought it was the coolest thing you could possibly do. I knew that I was most likely going to enjoy obstetrics, but I didn’t realize at the time I would also like gynecology. When I got to spend time on these rotations, I liked being able to focus on problems that only affected women, and I liked being able to follow through with them and take care of them over a longer time span from pregnancy to routine gynecology care. OB/GYN is unique, because we deliver babies, spend time on the labor floor, do surgical procedures and form long-term relationships with patients over time. I don’t think you get that in a lot of other specialties.
Doylestown Women’s Health is an allfemale practice. In your words, what are the benefits of an all-women practice—both on the patient’s side and the doctor’s side?
CL: I think there are many benefits, one of them including a lot of support from other women who are in the practice—especially for somebody like me, who’s just starting out here. It’s wonderful having women who have been here longer to get advice and support from. I’ve also noticed that the style of handing patients and problems is similar among the five of us, and it makes it easier for patients— that way, if by chance they have to see a different provider, they’re not getting vastly different opinions or answers. This, I believe, is especially important to our obstetric patients, so they have similar expectations of what their delivery experience will be like.
ZDF: Another thing I’ve noticed in our younger patients, such as those in their early 20s, is that they’re happy there’s a female doctor with them, especially if this is their first visit. Overall, I feel we provide a more comfortable setting for young women and women in general. As women, we can relate a little more about the problems a patient is coming to us for.
Have there been any new breakthroughs in the field?
CL: There are a greater number of management options for gynecology problems. If a woman had problems with fibroids and issues like that, 20 years ago your options were limited to hysterectomies, which back then was managed as an open procedure. Now, there are more options available, including progesterone IUDs and medication. These options have been helpful for patients seeking to avoid surgery. For those who ultimately require surgery, we have more minimally invasive procedures, and we are able to do it laparoscopically or robotically, which offers a quicker recovery time, less complications and better outcomes.
ZDF: From the obstetrics standpoint, we’re also looking into easier ways to manage postpartum hemorrhage, decreasing blood clots and reducing major mortality risk factors. We’re coming up with more ways to standardize the management aspects.
I understand the ultrasound suite is near completion. How will this kind of technology change the game for patients and the practice?
CL: So far, we have been able to offer patients an initial ultrasound with their pregnancy, so that’s been a huge advantage for us and our patients, and we have a group of trained sonographers who are in our office several days a week. Patients enjoy this because of the fact that they can get their ultrasound quicker, rather than making an appointment with another center or a hospital. It’s also nice to have the ultrasound in office in case there’s something during normal office hours a patient wants to look for. It decreases wait time and provides answers to questions a lot quicker. We’ve also started utilizing this for procedures such as IUD insertion as a way to provide guidance for the procedure.
ZDF: In addition to the ultrasound suite, we also have our colposcopy suite where we are able to further evaluate any cervical abnormalities through a microscope, which has also been an advantage to our practice and patients.
Lastly, what other areas of professional interest do you hope to pursue?
CL: My passion lies within obstetrics, and something I hope to be able to carry forward is something I call the “birth experience.” This is something sort of new and rising in obstetrics right now, and patients have been taking a lot of interest in how their birth experience will be. There is a great importance in making the birth experience comfortable, and patients can have traumatic experiences and responses if it doesn’t go as they envisioned. As obstetrics providers, it’s important to develop deep relationships with the patients. Obstetrics can be unpredictable, so it’s in our best interest to provide them with the best possible personal experience they hoped for, so they can look back on the experience positively.
ZDF: I have always favored obstetrics; that was one of the main reasons I went into this field. I love being a part of one of the most intimate and exciting things that can happen to a family. At the same time, some of these patients that I meet during their pregnancy will then continue to see me afterward for their routine gynecologic care. The strong relationships I’m able to forge with my patients in this way are why I love this specialty. So I cannot say there is one particular area that I focus on, as I enjoy every aspect of being an OB/GYN.
DOYLESTOWN WOMEN’S HEALTH CENTER
708 Shady Retreat Road, Suite 7
Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Life Magazine, November, 2017.