Women deserve safe space to discuss and receive care for their bodies — without shame|
York gynecologist’s trips to Ghana offer relief to thousands of women
Dr. Marsha Bornt knows how most women feel about visiting the gynecologist. At her York Township gynecology practice, she strives to make her patients feel comfortable no matter how routine the procedure.
More than 5,000 miles away in Africa, women face much different health problems.
“I have never seen anything in the U.S. like the patients I see in Ghana,” she says.
That’s why Dr. Bornt has taken 14 trips there since 2007, performing life-changing surgeries to thousands of women. And her goal overseas is the same as it is at Apple Hill Gynecology: Give women the care they deserve.
Waiting for help
Developing countries like Ghana often have only one doctor who treats entire communities.
When Dr. Bornt first started traveling to Apam – a small, coastal town on the west side of the continent just north of the equator – there was no gynecologist at the local hospital.
“Some of these women have waited years to even meet someone capable of performing surgeries,” Dr. Bornt says.
One of the most common procedures needed there is a hysterectomy, which is a surgery to remove all of the uterus. The operation alleviates painful periods, helps with excessive bleeding or provides comfort when the uterus has shifted after childbirth.
Many of the women in Apam requiring help have massive fibroid tumors, some of them so large that the women look pregnant with twins or triplets.
In the United States, it’s relatively easy for a woman to get a hysterectomy.
“In Ghana, these women don’t have a choice but to carry the tumor until someone comes to help them,” Dr. Bornt says. “They truly feel relief, joy, comfort – so many emotions – in knowing it’s gone.”
Sanitation and hygiene
Dr. Bornt’s service in Ghana doesn’t end in the operating room.
As a longtime member and past president of the Rotary Club of York, Dr. Bornt strives to live by the organization’s mission of “service above self.”
With more than 35,000 clubs around the world, Dr. Bornt’s Rotary connection put her in touch with the Rotary Club of Apam, where a water, sanitation, and hygiene project has become the local focus.
Because Apam lacks proper sanitation facilities, toilets, and clean water, the Rotary clubs felt the easiest way to teach young children about the importance of toilets and handwashing was to put toilets and showers in the Salvation Army Primary School and Junior High School.
Committed to service
Dr. Bornt says her service to those in Apam reflects the whole reason she got into medicine more than 40 years ago.
“I feel that we have so much in the United States, and along with that comes a responsibility to share it and to train others,” she says. “You gain much more than you give.”
Her stories about the service trips she’s taken focus on other people – the people who live in Ghana, the team she works with and those who donate money to help their cause.
“She is utterly committed to service,” says the Rev. Patrick Rooney, the president of the Rotary Club of York. “And she does it in a self-effacing way.”
Jean Ayers understands why some women struggle to be confident in their sexuality or comfortable in their bodies.
“Our society makes it difficult for so many women to talk openly about their bodies or to even take the time to care for themselves,” says Jean, a Certified Physician Assistant at Apple Hill Gynecology in the Apple Hill Medical Center. “It shouldn’t be that way. Women deserve a safe place to speak freely and receive care.”
As the newest addition to the gynecologist office in York, Pa., Jean wants women of all ages to be comfortable with coming to their doctor’s office.
“We experience a lot of body-shaming in our culture,” Jean says. “Being comfortable in one’s skin is important, and sometimes patients avoid the doctor because they are not comfortable.”
Individual health needs
Patients come to Apple Hill Gynecology in York for various female health concerns, says Jean, who joined the practice in January.
Many women are unaware that issues such as uncomfortable menstrual cycles or painful sexual experiences are often successfully treated by a medical professional. The practice also provides solutions for older women experiencing menopausal symptoms.
Apple Hill Gynecology’s medical staff is well-equipped and wants to help females learn about their individual health needs.
“It’s important to have an environment where women can have meaningful conversations with medical professionals without shame, fear or embarrassment,” Jean says.
Helping women of all ages
Having spent three years in a family practice before coming to Apple Hill Gynecology, Jean is following her dream to pursue specialty medicine in gynecology.
She sees multiple patients for consultations during the day, which usually include annual exams, contraceptive inquiries, Pap smears and minor outpatient surgical procedures.
Jean strives to teach basic reproductive health to teenagers and young adults so they can learn about sexuality without being ashamed or scared.
In turn, many older adults can neglect their health because they are busy taking care of aging parents or young children. Jean wants to provide guidance for these women who may have questions or need care after prioritizing their family’s health over their own.
Finding her niche
Before becoming a physician assistant, Jean practiced as a clinical psychologist and professor for 17 years.
She returned to school in 2008 to train for the next chapter in her career, which would take her from Baltimore County in Maryland to York County.
“In cities like Washington, D.C., or Baltimore, there are specialists on every corner,” she says. “In rural and town areas, there aren’t as many gynecological resources. We end up being a conduit for people, and I’m excited to have that opportunity.”
A safe space for patients
Jean strives to bring personal care to every woman who walks through the doors of the practice, creating a safe space for patients to voice fears, concerns and thoughts about their health.
Along with Dr. Marsha Bornt and a team of caring professionals at the York gynecologist practice, Jean cares for the diverse demographic of women from York County and the surrounding area, creating a secure space for all women regardless of their age or background.
“It’s important for women to take care of their gynecological health,” Jean says. “I’m really excited to be part of a team that provides that.”
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