|Dr. Vanita Modi|
For Dr. Vanita Modi being an Ob-Gyn is more than a job—it’s a life calling. And she remembers the exact moment when she first felt that calling. “I remember going into a waiting room that was filled with many women of all ages,” she said of a medical appointment more than five decades ago in her native Burma. The appointment had been made by her father because Dr. Modi, then 14 years old, was having menstrual problems but refused to talk to him, despite the fact that he was a physician.
“When it was my turn, a female doctor examined me. I felt so comfortable. I left there determined that I would someday be a women’s doctor, and nothing else,” she recalled.
For more than 40 years the Burmese born, Indian American doctor has made good on her promise to take care of women. In 2000, Dr. Modi was one of three doctors who helped open the Corona Women’s Health Center with an all-female staff.
A satellite facility of Elmhurst Hospital Center, the health center was created to meet the need for prenatal and gynecological care for women in the Corona community, said HHC Assistant Senior Vice President Irene Kaufman, who helped set up the clinic when she worked at Elmhurst Hospital. Twelve years later, the center continues to carry out its mission.
“As a woman doctor I feel that women are more open and comfortable with another female,” Dr. Modi explained. “And being a woman, I personally feel more compassionate toward my patients—I totally understand them,” she explained.
She’s delivered so many babies over her four-decade career that she’s lost count and has female patients from almost every part of the planet. On an average day at the clinic Dr. Modi sees about 20 patients, many of them immigrants from South East Asia, Africa, Mexico, Eastern Europe, Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean. She also sees patients at Elmhurst Hospital Center.
She says that she treats these women as family or friends – “as I would want to be treated when I visit the doctor.” The patients stay with her for so long that in some cases she has seen three generations of the same family.
Kaufman said the Corona clinic was set up after a community assessment identified a need to make it easy and convenient for women to get health services in their own community. It was purposely established with a private pediatrician next door so that the practices would complement each other.
Mindy Kopit, Senior Associate Executive Director of Ambulatory Care at Elmhurst Hospital, said, “Dr. Modi develops long-term relationships with her patients based on trust and understanding of the patient’s backgrounds and personal needs. This is a very important aspect of patient-centered care.”
The affection that Dr. Modi feels for her patients is returned. Take 30-year-old Yoka Gomez, a Dominican American and mom of two who has been Dr. Modi’s patient since 2003.
“She is the best,” Gomez declared emphatically. “I love my doctor. From the moment you walk in to her office she explains everything. I really appreciate that. She’s just so cool and so happy and caring. I wouldn’t want to change my GYN for nobody!”
Dr. Modi carefully goes over what tests she is conducting and why. She encourages women to eat balanced meals and take care of their overall health. The clinic services a population from diverse cultures, and that diversity, while fascinating to her, is also challenging.
“Some patients have to be coaxed into taking their undergarments off for pelvic exams or examining breasts,” she says. “But you get to know them and their families and over time, they trust you.”
To Dr. Modi, who comes from a family of physicians–besides her dad, seven of her eight brothers and sisters are doctors--being a medical doctor is an honor, and in particular being a women’s doctor.
“You get to help women during very emotional times–when they give birth, when they lose babies, as young girls entering puberty, as women going through menopause,” said the 64-year-old married doctor who resides on Long Island with her husband, a lawyer and accountant. “I feel a special privilege to know and help women through all these stages.”