Female doctors cater for PE women

[caption id="attachment_37214" align="alignright" width="620"] WOMEN'S TOUCH: Women 4 Life doctors in front of their growing women's clinic practice in Newton Park are, from left, Ester Liebenberg, Adi-Mari Schoeman and Sita Pretorius. Picture: JUDY DE VEGA
INSET: Dr Bhavna Morar, who was in theatre at the time the picture was taken[/caption]

WOMEN doing it for themselves may sound a bit like the lyrics from an Aretha Franklin song, but that is exactly what a group of female doctors are doing in Port Elizabeth.

Starting their own practice only two years ago, partners Adi-Mari Schoeman and Sita Pretorius had no idea there was such a big need in the region for female doctors specialising in women's health.

A first for Port Elizabeth, it is the first exclusively women's health clinic – run for women, by women.

"Our patients feel comfortable with us, as we go through the same things as they do," Pretorius said.

Creating a comfortable environment for their female patients where they are able to go for their annual routine and preventative check-ups at the Women 4 Life centre in Newton Park, was essential, Schoeman said. This is evident from the beautifully decorated doctor's rooms and gentle bedside manner of the doctors.

Schoeman, who has worked extensively in a women's clinic in Canada, copied the model and started the business with Pretorius, and last year two more partners, Dr Ester Liebenberg and Dr Bhavna Morar joined the practice.

Finding the right partners was essential, and Schoeman said they all complemented each other with their unique and different strengths – from networking with clients to being a good organiser.

"We had similar needs when we started the practice.

"We want to work flexible hours and specialise in women's health. Women generally feel comfortable here," Schoeman said.

All four of the female partners run busy households and prefer working flexible hours to spend time at home with their children.

The doctors work two days a week and to top it all, three of the four partners live out of town.

Schoeman is married to a citrus farmer in Patensie and has two children in primary school.

She continues to work in Canada at least once a year to consult in a women's clinic in Virdin, and ploughs back new trends in women's health when she returns to the Port Elizabeth practice. Pretorius is married and lives in Jeffreys Bay, and has three sons, aged 11, 16, and 18.

She has decades of experience as a general practitioner and said women's health always interested her.

"It has been a learning curve starting our own business. We changed things here and there, and tried new things along the way," Pretorius said.

Liebenberg is also married to a citrus farmer and lives in the Kirkwood area. The couple have three children – one of whom is still in school, while the other two are at university.

She previously practised as a doctor in Uitenhage, where she also worked a lot with female patients. When Women 4 Life asked her to join them, Liebenberg said it was a dream come true to be able to work exclusively in the medical field she loved most.

Liebenberg stressed that Women 4 Life was not competition for the gynaecologists at all. Problems picked up from annual check-ups are referred to specialists or the patients' general practitioners where needed.

"For most of us, this is our last stop. It is important to start a business at the right time in your life. We have gained enough experience as GPs and are in the right frame of mind," Liebenberg said.

Morar has two children in primary school and is married to an orthopaedic surgeon in Port Elizabeth, whom she assists in theatre and lends a hand to in managing his practice.

Schoeman said another doctor was set to join the growing practice next year. - Cindy Preller

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