Maria E. Bleszynski, MD, FRCS(C)
British Columbia, Canada.
Q. Dr. Bleszynski, please tell me a little about yourself and your practice.
A. I was born and grew up in Krakow, Poland, where I studied medicine at the Jagiellonski University, graduating in 1977. After graduation, I had the privilege to work at the university hospital in research and teaching in addition to my duties as a resident in the obstetrics and gynecology program.
In 1981, I emigrated to British Columbia, Canada, to marry my husband. It took 8 years to get my diploma certified and complete an additional 4 years of residency training. In 1989, I started my own practice near the Surrey Memorial Hospital (SMH), where I’ve had privileges since that time. By then my husband and I had two beautiful boys; Michael was then 4 years old and Peter was 7 months. We were just settling down to enjoy family life when my husband was diagnosed with lung cancer and passed away in 1992.
At this point, I had second thoughts about the practicality of staying in Canada. However, my husband loved Canada and my boys inspired me to stay. I am very grateful to my mother, who came from Poland to help take care of my children and manage my house. This allowed me to concentrate on my practice, taking on-calls at SMH and maximizing quality time with my boys. Both boys are great athletes, enjoying skiing, tennis, and rugby.
Q. Has your career progressed as you expected?
A. When I first graduated from medical school in Poland, I had no preconceived ideas of how my career might evolve. I enjoyed the research and teaching and missed these when I moved to Canada. However, since SMH has become more connected with the University of British Columbia (UBC) over the years, I have had the pleasure of teaching and mentoring students and residents. It was a great honor to recently receive a certificate from the UBC Faculty of Medicine recognizing my “excellence in clinical teaching.”
From the start of my practice, I have been interested in furthering a better understanding of women’s health issues. As one of the first NAMS accredited practitioners in my area, I organized free monthly meetings for patients to discuss menopause, perimenopause, and other health issues. Since the release of the Women’s Health Initiative data in 2002, these meetings have become less frequent, but now my website provides access to information on menopause and women’s health.
Q. You have been a member of NAMS for 17 years; how has the Society changed over this time?
A. My first contact with NAMS was at the 2nd Annual Meeting in Montreal in 1991 where I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Wulf Utian. His spirit and motivation stimulated me to become more involved with this aspect of medicine. NAMS was originally a relatively small organization focused on providing understanding of all aspects of menopause. Focusing on excellent research and interaction between the different specialists has allowed the Society to grow in size and stature so that today NAMS is recognized as the world’s preeminent source of information on the subject.
Q. How does your NAMS membership benefit you?
A. My membership in NAMS benefits both myself and my patients by providing me and hence my patients with the latest evidence-based research on the subject. Attending the NAMS Annual Meetings provides me an opportunity to hear presentations on current developments in the field, and gives me an opportunity to discuss and exchange opinions and experiences with like-minded professionals.
A. You have also been a generous donor to the NAMS Foundation. Why do you contribute to the Foundation?
I support the NAMS Foundation because I recognize that a nonprofit organization requires money to hold excellent conferences and produce first-rate educational materials. There is still much research needed to address the ongoing questions regarding hormone therapy, menopause, and aging. It is often difficult to advise patients on the best course of treatment for their unique questions. NAMS is not only a source of current information but also a great source of reference materials that can be sustained only with the help of the Foundation. For me, supporting the Foundation is a way to say thank you for being there for me and my patients.
Q. What would you say to other practitioners to encourage them to give to the Foundation?
A. I would encourage all professionals with an interest in women’s health to review the NAMS website as an excellent source of data, and then attend a NAMS Annual Meeting to experience the atmosphere of a truly dedicated and diverse group with one common goal. If they are like me, attending one or two conferences will convince them of the importance of supporting the Foundation to ensure NAMS’s future success. Finally, I would encourage all members to think about what their practices would be like without NAMS. Would they have the same depth of knowledge in their field without the support of this fine organization?