Linda Fan, MD, a specialist in gynecologic surgery, relishes problem-solving for patients. “I see a lot of consultations for different issues where the patient says, ‘I’ve seen this many doctors and they never figured it out. You’re the first person who asked me that question or did this part of the exam,’” Dr. Fan says.
Getting to that point with patients requires not only a bit of detective work, but also an open attitude, Dr. Fan says. “It’s about really listening to what their complaint is and trying to read the subtext to see what else they might be worried about,” she says. “I routinely screen patients with certain questions about things that might be intimate or embarrassing. That seems to gain their trust, and then I can better help them.”
Dr. Fan surgically treats—often, with minimally invasive techniques—a number of conditions, including chronic pelvic pain, fibroids (smooth muscle tumors that are typically not cancerous) and abnormal uterine bleeding (vaginal bleeding outside the normal menstrual period).
“What drew me to obstetrics and gynecology during my education is that it you can truly build relationships with patients, and help them with their issues from start to finish,” she says. “They can come for an annual exam. If they have fibroids, I can treat that. If they need a hysterectomy, I can do that. They go into menopause. I can treat that, too. It’s really an old-school feeling of continuity, mixed with this great feeling of being able to help them with their problems.”
Dr. Fan, who is an assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences for Yale School of Medicine, is active in research about patient safety.