Caring for a woman means caring for an entire community, says Lubna Pal, MBBS (a medical degree awarded in several countries outside of the U.S.), MS. Dr. Pal, a reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist, honed this perspective growing up in Pakistan, where her mother was an an obstetrician-gynecologist and her father a surgeon.
“In the developing world, as a woman’s health provider, you’re not just addressing a woman’s health, you’re taking care of the entire family,” she says. “Reproductive endocrinology and infertility appealed to me not just because of the exciting changes in the field, but because, going back to my roots, family building is so critical. Making a difference for couples who are struggling to conceive does more than impact the couple. To me, the implications are societal.”
Dr. Pal, whose expertise lies in the management of infertility, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and menopause, says that developing a strong relationship with patients is critical to healing. “You have to be there emotionally for them, to stay the course, through the highs and lows,” she says. “You have to be candid. You have to be sensitive. And you have to be genuine.”
Infertility management, she points out, requires a particularly sensitive yet direct approach. “The majority of the time, you are dealing with healthy, young couples, who may be under a tremendous emotional burden,” she says. “When treating infertility with existing technologies and current knowledge, even in the best scenarios the treatment fails 50 percent of the time. Your commitment to the patient needs to be absolute, so that if a cycle fails, they know you did the best that anyone could do.”
Dr. Pal is a professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at Yale School of Medicine.