SALISBURY — After 14 years of bringing babies into the world, Dr. Gayle Yatawara has retired from obstetrics but not from medicine.
In a venture unique to Salisbury, Yatawara has launched a new practice called Yatawara Gynecology, Wellness and Aesthetics that will serve as a one-stop shop for women as they age.
In addition to the gynecological care she has provided since 1998 at Carolina Women's Health Associates, Yatawara will offer cosmetic procedures in her new office including Botox and prescription skin care, as well as bioidentical hormone replacement therapy.
She'll miss delivering babies. “I have had the honor of helping bring new life into so many wonderful families,” Yatawara said.
But the physical demands of labor and delivery — all those sleepless nights — proved too much as Yatawara approached age 50 and wanted to spend more time with her family.
“It's time for me to slow down,” she said.
Yatawara said focusing solely on gynecology and adding wellness and cosmetics procedures to her practice will not only allow her to see her family more, but direct her time and energy toward the issues and concerns that are beginning to affect her personally, as well as her older patients.
Sitting in the cheerfully decorated waiting room at 415 Statesville Boulevard, a building she bought and renovated, Yatawara talks openly about hot flashes, weight gain, skin problems and other issues that have cropped up as she ages.
“I know I need a tune-up,” she said with a laugh.
Catering to patients
She made the change not for herself but for her patients, who she said increasingly have been asking for aesthetics and bioidentical hormones.
Many patients have a particularly close and trusting relationship with their gynecologist, who already knows so many aspects of their life, Yatawara said. It made sense to expand her practice to offer patients the additional treatments they were seeking, often out of town.
“Over the years, my patients have asked for this many times, almost daily,” she said. “They have directed this.”
Yatawara said some patients were embarrassed to admit they were going to Charlotte for bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, an alternative to traditional hormone replacement therapy for menopausal women. She was concerned that she was missing pieces of her patients' medical picture.
She began a fellowship in anti-aging to learn more about the alternative therapy and became convinced that the controversial but increasingly popular treatment — it's not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or recommended by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists — can benefit certain women.
Yatawara said she expects to complete the fellowship and prescribe bioidentical hormone replacement therapy soon. She will continue to offer traditional hormone replacement therapy as well.
She has completed training in the administration of Botox and chemical peels. She offers a physician-prescribed skin care product line and also plans to become trained in sclerotherapy, a procedure used to treat spider veins.
Patient Brenda Wood of Salisbury encouraged Yatawara to expand her practice to include cosmetic procedures.
“It is a perfect extension of her exceptional relationship with her patients,” Wood said.
Dermatologists, general practitioners and plastic surgeons offer Botox and other “rejuvenating” procedures, so why not a highly trained gynecologist, Woods said.
“Thousands of women have trusted their reproductive and gynecological health to her for decades, why not injections?” she said.
Wood said she likes the convenience of staying in Salisbury for her health care and the confidence of having services provided by someone she already knows and trusts.
“She not only 'gets' what women deal with, she can, and truly does, empathize,” Wood said.
As an obstetrician, Yatawara was on call every fourth night for 14 years, staying at Rowan Regional Medical Center all night and grabbing a few hours of sleep when she could.
Sleep deprivation took its toll, and it became more difficult for Yatawara to recover as she grew older.
“When you are younger, you can bounce back from that. But it was taking me two days to get over being on call, and then here you go again,” she said. “I was watching my life passing me by, and I wanted to make sure I could enjoy my children.”
Gracie, a freshman at Salisbury High School, and Lily, a freshman at Appalachian State University, are thrilled with the change in their mom's schedule, as is husband Chanaka Yatawara, director for the Salisbury Community Development Corporation.
“I haven't had this much sleep since 1992,” Yatawara said. “I don't have that fog of fatigue. There's something to be said for that.”
The first day Yatawara opened her practice, she expected to see women her age in the lobby. Instead, she had a schedule filled with young women and older girls. She discovered that her longtime patients were bringing their daughters to see her.
While she will no longer deliver babies, Yatawara said she will still be able to watch her younger patients grow up.
Going out on her own
Leaving her longtime practice at Carolina Women's Health Associates, where she said she was “practically married” to her partners Dr. Jessie Blumenthal and Dr. James Murphy, also has been hard.
The split was amicable, and Yatawara said she and Blumenthal remain best friends. She and Murphy, who did their residencies together, have “been through thick and thin,” Yatawara said.
She will refer her patients who become pregnant to her former partners at Carolina Women's Health.
In her new office, Yatawara has three full-time employees and works from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to noon on Fridays. After a three-month renovation including new flooring, paint, plumbing and a full kitchen, the practice offers two treatment rooms and four exam rooms.
Yatawara decorated the facility herself, choosing feminine colors and accessories but steering clear of a spa-like feel. She wants patients to know they are in a medical office, she said.
“I wanted a medical practice in a comfortable environment,” she said.