H.O.W.’s “Time is of the Essence Luncheon” this month will welcome celebrity guest speaker Dr. Jennifer Ashton, a certified OB-GYN, author of three books and ABC medical correspondent. We spoke with Ashton about the mistakes women are making with their health and how they can make a difference today.
You’ve published three books, been a correspondent for ABC and “Good Morning America,” written a column for Cosmopolitan magazine, and the list goes on. But none of it would have happened if you hadn’t studied gynecology. Tell me about that decision.
Well, it was interesting, actually, because when I started medical school I thought I was going to go into general surgery because I loved being in the ER, and I had worked with some surgeons and I really loved the immediacy of surgery. … It wasn’t until I did my rotation as a third year medical student that I fell in love with OB-GYN/women’s health. And I really found that it offered everything that I wanted in a medical career.
Your office in New Jersey is known for incorporating spa-like qualities and green, non-toxic products. Tell me about that.
I made the decision eight years ago when I opened my practice that I have a very specific theory of the way I thought medicine should be practiced, and it was very simple that every patient should be treated like a VIP—a very important patient.
What has been the pinnacle of your career?
I think the pinnacle of my career has been the experiences that I’ve had in media, in TV, because of the role that I’ve had. You know, there are only five doctors who do what I do in the media, and I’m one of them. And so that’s given me the opportunity to have incredible experiences that I never thought I would have. … Last year I moderated a panel on women and heart disease on the stage of Lincoln Center’s Koch Theatre with Barbra Streisand. And I thought to myself, ‘I can’t believe I’m sharing a stage with Barbra Streisand.’
From your experience, are there any big mistakes you see women making with their health?
I think the biggest one, and I think this is a massive problem, is [what I call] the crisis in women’s health literacy, which is that women at every educational level—from top to bottom, their knowledge about the way their bodies function is very, very poor.
How did you get connected with the H.O.W. (Hearing the Ovarian Cancer Whisper) organization?
I was contacted by Dr. Carolyn Runowicz, who is a nationally renowned GYN-oncologist, and I was actually her resident when I was in residency in New York City.
Are there any shocking facts you can share about ovarian cancer?
I think the most shocking fact that I hear over and over again that women don’t know is that the birth control pill reduces the risk of ovarian cancer.
Can you name three ways women can improve their health today?
1. Get a gynecologist that you love, not just like, because that should be your partner in health. You shouldn’t be navigating these roads on your own and feeling like you have to reinvent the wheel all by yourself.
2. Commit to what I call the trifecta of good health, which is really nailing the three basics of health and wellness, which is eating well, sleeping well and fitness and moving your body every day.
3. Learn how to think like a doctor, which is being on the cutting edge of what’s new, what’s being discovered in medicine. … I would rather teach people how to think like a doctor than teach them random facts. So what that means is really explaining how to balance risk versus benefit, and questions they should ask not just their doctors but themselves.
Hear more from Dr. Jennifer Ashton at H.O.W.’s “Time is of the Essence Luncheon” on Jan. 26 at the Mar-a-Lago Club; howflorida.org