Shayna Mancuso, DO, is inspired by heroine and NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, portrayed in the award-winning movie “Hidden Figures”.
“Her story is about women’s rights and civil rights and believing in something bigger,” Dr. Mancuso says of Johnson, an African-American woman credited for helping to chart the trajectories for several successful NASA missions and breaking societal barriers in the process. “She’s a symbol of empowerment and so much more.”
Dr. Mancuso’s belief in empowerment led to the first-ever emergency response system for obstetrics at Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital, where she serves as an obstetrics and gynecology hospitalist and health systems clinician. For expectant moms, her message of empowerment means building relationships that facilitate positive delivery outcomes. For every woman, it means compassion without judgement and continuous care at every stage and for every need.
The DO spoke with Dr. Mancuso about her passion for women’s health and what makes the osteopathic approach so unique. This is an edited transcript.
What makes the osteopathic ob-gyn approach different?
We appreciate the body’s natural tendency toward self-healing. I make it a point to focus on preventative care and look closely at the root cause of the underlying issue. I am trained to look at my patients with a holistic eye. I’m able to get to know each woman as a whole person, mind body and soul.
What are the desired outcomes for new patients and expectant moms?
My goal is to build relationships from the very start. This enables me to dig deeper into the underlying root cause of any illness. When I truly connect and listen to the patient, the full picture begins to unfold. For expecting moms, it is important for them to trust that I can bring their baby safely into this world. I want new moms to know that I am there to guide them through the process and show them their inner strength.
What is most challenging about what you do?
As an ob-gyn hospitalist and first responder to all emergencies, the unknown is my biggest challenge. We never know what may present to labor and delivery. Some patients are complex and high-risk. Often, I have limited to no information about them, but I must act quickly and precisely.
What is most rewarding?
Being able to help a mother bring new life into the world. I still get tears in my eyes on many deliveries when I see a baby taking its first breath. I like to take a couple of seconds and allow that moment to sink in. It is an honor and privilege that I will never take for granted.
How can medical students interested in ob-gyn best prepare to match?
Stay organized and map out audition rotations early. These rotations will show the residency program your clinical abilities, communication skills and leadership potential. Make sure your letters of recommendation and personal statement focus on your interest in ob-gyn. Our specialty is a mix of women’s health, surgery and primary care. So, it’s good to have letters from ob-gyns, surgeons and family practitioners. And build your DO network, which is critical. Your interactions and connections with the AOA can help. There are wonderful DO mentors that will help.
What drew you to ob-gyn?
I love the idea of advancing women’s health. I enjoy the diversity of the field. I am able to spend time in the office seeing patients, perform high-stakes surgery, and later in the same day, bring life into the world during labor and delivery!
How has the ob-gyn specialty evolved within osteopathy?
It has grown tremendously. I was one of the first DOs accepted into my ob-gyn residency program at University Medical Center in Las Vegas, the only DO resident out of 12. OMT may not have been encouraged during my first year, but by my fourth year, the whole team was on board! Now, they have plenty of DOs.
What would people be surprised to know about your role as an ob-gyn?
We’ve had expectant moms who have overdosed and I approach them with empathy and compassion. I make it a priority to educate my staff and nurses about addiction because there is more to these moms than just labeling them. I feel comfortable in that setting. I try to help them in that moment and be a positive force as they deliver.
Your husband is a two-time Golden Gloves champion. How does that impact the family?
Our three daughters and I wear pink and purple boxing gloves and we train with my husband sometimes. I’m a member of the Association of Ringside Physicians and I’ll be getting some amateur fights under my belt soon as a practicing physician for fighters. Outside of that, I’m into running and hot yoga.
What inspires you?
Good, old-fashioned hard work, selfless human beings working to make the world a better place, the underdog, and helping osteopathic physicians emerge as leaders in health care. Our time is now!