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Women doctors focus on female health issues

Linda Hiller

The three-woman obstetric and gynecological team of Bower, Shanahan and Kolb – Woman to Woman – have expanded their hours at the Carson Valley Medical Center to better serve Valley patients.

They may look like executives for a modeling school, but make no mistake, these are doctors. In fact, they’re all surgeons.

Woman to Woman began as a one-doctor practice in 1991 when Lauren Bower came to South Lake Tahoe with her husband – also a doctor – from Irvine, Calif. Her practice began at South Lake Tahoe.

Born in Connecticut and raised in Orange County, Bower went to Vanderbilt University in Tenn., and interned at University of Southern Florida. After graduating with her MD degree, she did her residency at University of California, Irvine and practiced there for a couple of years afterwards.

She said her inspiration to become a doctor came from many areas, but cited one day when she was sitting in the sun reading a book.

“I was reading a book by Christian Barnard, and it really inspired me.” she said, referring to the South African heart surgeon who was the first to perform a successful heart transplant. “I don’t know, maybe it was sunstroke,” she added with a laugh.

Bower said that while she was in medical school, there were many students who hated surgery, but she wasn’t one of them.

“I absolutely loved it. I was a bit squeamish about working on eyes, however,” she said.

Obstetrics and gynecology provided Bower with the perfect mix as a doctor, she said.

“I enjoy working with women, and it is a field where you can combine surgery with an ongoing relationship with a patient,” she said.

Bower and her husband have two children, both delivered be caesarean section, Matthew, 7 and Madison, 2-1/2.

Dr. Kelly Shanahan, 36, joined Bower’s practice in 1994. She and her husband know the infertility side of obstetrics, having personally experienced miscarriages and fertility challenges.

“We bring a personal perspective to this practice,” she said. “We’ve experienced much of what our patients experience.”

Shanahan’s specialties are basic infertility, high risk obstetrics and laparoscopic surgeries. Born in the New York state, Shanahan did her undergraduate college work at Bryn Mawr College in Penn., went to medical school at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville and did her residency at Temple in Philadelphia.

She first began medical school planning to be a general practitioner, but she said that when she got to her OB-GYN rotation in her third year and delivered her first baby, she was sold on the specialty.

“I was so excited I called my parents at 4 a.m. and told them ‘I just delivered a baby!'” Shanahan said. “They said ‘Thanks, but you could have waited three hours.'”

From then on, she said, OB-GYN was for her. After completing her residency, Shanahan remained in Philadelphia, practicing with two other male doctors.

“We had different philosophies,” she said. “They ran their patients through like cattle – I hated that.”

Wanting a change, she looked out west and found Bower as Woman to Woman was in need of another doctor.

Three months after moving here, Shanahan met her husband, a general contractor, and six months later they were married.

“I just love it here,” she said. “I can’t imagine living anywhere else.” Both she and her husband enjoy skiing, hiking, biking and sailing and are hopeful they will have children together someday.

The youngest and only single member of the practice, Cynthia Kolb, 30, has been with Woman to Woman since July.

Raised in South Carolina, Kolb always wanted to be a doctor. After attending undergraduate school at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C., she went on to medical school at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, where she also did her residency.

“I never changed my mind while I was in medical school,” she said. “Nothing was quite as appealing to me as obstetrics and gynecology.”

Her specialties are general obstetrics, breast feeding issues and menopause.

“Obstetrics offers a unique experience for a doctor. There are very personal moments,” as well as medical and surgical challenges, she said.

She said the three-woman team at Woman to Woman is unusual.

“We are in a unique position, which is not to say having males in a practice would be a bad thing, but we understand women from personal experience,” she said.

Woman to Woman is a full service gynecological group, with minimally invasive surgery offered, routine and high risk obstetrics, laparoscopic hysterectomy and most recently, the new laparoscopic Burch procedure available by both Bower and Shanahan.

“This procedure is through the belly button and basically we suture and elevate the bladder,” thereby preventing incontinence, Bower said.

Currently there is no other OB-GYN practice in the area with only women as physicians.

“We’re the only all-female OB-GYN practice in the Sierra, understanding women as only women can,” Shanahan said.

Valley clinic hours are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Most private insurance is accepted and new patients are welcome.

Woman to Woman is located inside the Carson Valley Medical Center, 1107 Highway 395. Phone 782-1570 or 885-9300 for more information. FAX number is 542-4964.

The Lake location is 976 Emerald Bay Road, South Lake Tahoe, phone (916) 542-4961.