Wendy Hoffman blogs about menopause and women's health—particularly focusing on how diet and nutrition can positively affect a woman's life around the age of menopause.See all posts »
Does Your Doctor Have the Expertise to Guide You Through the Menopause Years?
I recently attended the annual conference of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) -- whose membership is comprised of clinical and science experts, including physicians, researchers, and nurses -- who focus almost exclusively on women’s health in midlife. Most of those in attendance were gynecologists in private practice eager to hear the latest research on issues such as hormone safety, osteoporosis prevention, heart health, and more.
It was also an opportunity for these docs, who are on the front line of menopause management, to compare notes with their colleagues and seek advice on complex patient cases involving obesity, diabetes, and cancer.
During the three days that I attended, it was like watching a menopause cable TV channel. Nothing but menopause talk 24/7. (That’s not a bad idea!) It was music to my ears because I saw how passionate the physicians were about women’s health and how much they loved to talk about it. The information they took home would undoubtedly help them guide their patients in making the best decisions based on the latest scientific evidence.
I wondered, though. Why wasn’t my own gynecologist there? How does she keep up with all the studies that are underway if not at an annual gathering of her peers? Is it possible that I am now more up-to-date on the latest research findings than she is?
For example, I learned about promising remedies for controlling the frequency of hot flashes; the impact of diet, weight and stress in women’s cardiovascular health; changes in midlife screening recommendations; and the results of a significant study that compared the safety of two types of Estrogen.
It made me question whether my own gynecologist of ten years was really the best person to guide me through the menopause transition and beyond. Is she truly an expert on women’s health in midlife? And does that matter?
Dr. Tara Allmen, a New York City-based gynecologist who specializes in health and wellness for mature women, says it does indeed matter. She counsels women to evaluate their physician’s expertise in light of their own changing needs when just beginning the menopause transition:
"Women in their 40s and 50s face new and difficult health challenges,” she told me. “The time to learn about the best approach to healthy aging is right now. And the most qualified person to help you navigate these waters is an expert in midlife women's health."
How do you know if a physician is a menopause “expert?”
One way is to ask if he or she is a NAMS certified menopause practitioner. A NCMP certification is awarded to a licensed healthcare provider (including doctors, nurses, and physician assistants) who demonstrate their expertise by passing a rigorous competency examination. The credential is good for three years and they receive a certificate that they can proudly display in their office.
To find out whether your physician or other healthcare provider has earned the NCMP certification, or to find one who has, take advantage of the searchable directory on the NAMS website.