WP 1 Biomedicine – Sarah Skoropa

I have been on birth control since I was 15, and the process of going on it involved a dermatologist, a psychiatrist and of course, a gynecologist.  I realize that sounds like the set up to a bad joke.

The first time it was brought up in a doctor’s office was at my dermatologist. She advised that I start taking oral contraceptives as a way to help my acne.  I had a very healthy diet consisting of very little processed food (my mom is kind of a health nut). She recommended birth control as a way to help calm down my acne, without using drying topical or oral medications.  I was all for it, I was very self-conscious about my acne, and I knew that at some point I would be sexually active, and I saw it as a great way to be prepared before that happened.  I actually was really grateful that it was my dermatologist that brought it up, as I would be spared the uncomfortable conversation with my mother later on when I wanted it for contraceptive purposes.

I then talked about it with my psychiatrist, as she is my doctor that keeps track of all of my medications and potential effects they could have on me, as I am hyper sensitive to some medications.  She told me what she believed would be best for me.

Armed with that, I finally went to my gynecologist.  I was nervous at first, it was a very new concept to me, and I had never been to a gynecologist.  My mom had done a lot of research about which practice would be best for my age, as I refused to go to hers because he was the one that delivered me and that just weirded me out.  I walked in, and it was this large, warm place with lush couches, a fireplace, and very nice staff in flattering, neutral scrubs.  It was not at all what I was expecting.  My entire experience there, was warm, and I felt very at ease.  Honestly, I wish every experience at the doctor is like the one I have there.  My doctor is a young woman who is very non-judgmental and kind.  I walked out with my very first birth control prescription and felt like that was the moment I had transitioned from a girl into a woman.  Looking back now, after 4 years of anthropology classes, and I am fascinated by the fact that it was that experience that I perceived as my coming of age.

This entire process was very positive, and although it involved a lot of biomedicine doctors, every one of them made me very comfortable, and helped ease any nerves.  This represents my most positive experience with biomedicine, and I was honestly spoiled, because my first real negative experience did not come until my first year at MSU.

It was not until I had an appointment at Olin’s women’s health clinic, that I saw firsthand, the negative aspects of biomedicine.  It was my first semester, and I was so excited to be independent and I saw one part of that independence as having a doctor near my new home.  It was time for me to get a new script for my birth control, and I made the appointment at Olin.  As soon as I walked in a felt bad.  The building was cold, hard, and confusing.  After some help, I made my way to the clinic.  I did all the normal paperwork, but instead of the inviting plush couches, there were hard, old chairs all right next to each other with harsh fluorescent lights.  I got into the room, and the doctor came in.  She immediately started asking me a bunch of questions, rather hurriedly, and it felt more like an interrogation than a conversation.  This was not what I was used to.  She then went through my list of medications, asking for the reasons for each, and then she started talking about how I should not be on some of these medications.  I was not happy, here is this women, who barely knows anything about me, telling me that everything I have been doing for the past few years is wrong.  Everything felt so impersonal and rushed.  I realize now, that I am sure she had many other patients to get to, and didn’t have the time to get to know me, but I felt more like pill consumer rather than a human being.

It was that experience that made me realize how spoiled I was, and really see the downsides of the medical system to which I am accustomed.  There are a great deal of flaws in biomedicine, but some of them can be reduced through more patient time, and inviting environments.

4 thoughts on “WP 1 Biomedicine – Sarah Skoropa

  1. Sarah,

    I could not agree more with you. I am also on birth control and have experienced much of the same affects. After visiting Olin and many other health care providers I am left feeling the same way. They are always just trying to push medicine down my throat and rush me out of the practice. I actually wrote about this availability issue in my blog. I want my experiences with my health care providers to be more personal and interactive. I understand how busy doctors may be but I believe that they should stop booking so many people in one day. It may lose them money in the short term but I believe they will keep more patients long term! One thing that I can say is that I have had a much better experience with Nurse Practitioners. They seem to make a little more time and be a little more caring than the doctors themselves. If you can I would definitely recommend seeing a Nurse Practitioner.

  2. Hi Sarah,

    I can relate to your post in many different ways, but what struck me in particular was your experience at Olin. I had a similar experience there with trying to refill my birth control, when the physician I saw seemed to judge me at the mention of the anti-depressants I was currently taking. If he had only asked me why I was taking them, maybe he wouldn’t have jumped to conclusions and assumed they were for depression- they were actually prescribed by my neurologist to prevent migraines. It was this disconnect that made me feel so grateful for the health care system I grew up with, and so concerned for the system I might be facing in the future. I have talked to so many students who face this issue as well. Many of them don’t have a primary care physician because it’s so hard to establish that relationship with a new doctor, or they simply don’t know where to go for help. It can be intimidating, I hope to one day establish a practice like your first gynecologist experience; making health and preventative measures accessible and comfortable for everyone.


  3. Hi Sarah,

    I am so happy to hear that you had such a positive experience visiting the several doctors that you came across with, especially the gynecologist. I know that type of doctor and reason for visiting can be very uncomfortable and having someone you are contented with is tremendous. My personal experience with the gynecologist has been nothing short of amazing, if you will. The doctor and staff make sure the atmosphere is calming and an open comfortable environment. It honestly makes the difference. I like the point you stated that you felt the transition from a girl into a woman, I felt the same! Similarly, I also had a negative experience at Olin. The ladies at the front desk were not as chipper or welcoming as you’d expect. The doctor I saw was extremely nice, but never figured out what was wrong with me at that time. I was experiencing a bad cold/cough/illness for about a month and a half and I knew something was wrong, maybe not internally serious, but something that needed to get cleared up. I left feeling incomplete almost because nothing got solved. I was not looked at in depth either and also felt a little rushed in there. Every experience and place will be different, but it does open your eyes to how they differ and which you prefer.

  4. Hi Sarah,
    I really agree with what you have to say. Nowadays doctors visits seem very impersonal. It’s as if they’re just trying to get you in and out as quickly as possible. You are right. Even though doctors have many patients to get to it still would be nice to be reassured that each individual matters to the doctor. I am so sorry about your experience at Olin. I too had a similar experience. Something about that place seems so uninviting and uncomfortable. They need to work on having their patients feel like they are in a welcoming environment where they feel comfortable. Your doctor should be someone you feel comfortable talking to and sharing details about yourself with. I feel that by rushing you through your visit, it makes you feel uneasy about their ability to help manage your health.

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