Grace Ferguson, M.D., M.P.H.
- Family Planning
- Pregnancy loss
- Women with substance abuse
- Abortion care
- Risk reduction strategies in health care
- Homeless care
- B.A., Public Health (Johns Hopkins University)
- M.D., Jefferson Medical College
- Internship and Residency in OB/GYN (University of Pittsburgh)
- Fellowship in Family Planning (University of Pittsburgh)
- Master of public health (University of Pittsburgh)
2nd year fellow in Family Planning (I will be joining an academic-community hospital in Pittsburgh to help build their family planning division).
1 | What drew you to OB/GYN?
I was drawn to public health early on and had originally wanted to go into ID, fighting malaria internationally. However, my undergraduate classes in public health really emphasized to me the importance of women’s health and rights in communities and introduced me to the importance of reproductive rights and access. As a medical student, I found myself loving both primary care and surgery. I find OB/GYN satisfying because it allows me to combine my love of surgery, care over the lifetime and advocacy in one field.
2 | Why did you decide to do a fellowship in family planning? Are you planning to stay in academic medicine?
The fellowship in family planning is geared to build leaders in OB/GYN with excellent clinical and research skills. I’m choosing to leave formal academic medicine (for now) to develop a family planning division at the competing health system in Pittsburgh. It feels like the best use of my training to expand access for women since in Pittsburgh your providers are determined by your insurance coverage. I could definitely see returning to formal academic medicine, but as a young attending I’m interested in creating change and staying clinically busy.
3 | What has been one of your most fulfilling professional experiences?
Caring for women in the worst/scariest/saddest/most joyful moments of their lives is what makes this career amazing. Some days I work on labor and delivery and just help women build their families. Other days I work on abortion care, where I guide women through making decisions they never thought they’d need to make- whether it be ending a pregnancy because they are in a violent relationship or ending a pregnancy that is highly desired but has a severe complication. All these women deserve safe, compassionate care. In fact, the saddest part is to see how often women seeking termination of pregnancy expect to be judged or shamed for their choices. My job is to take care of women, no matter where they are coming from.
4 | What advice would you give to students passionate about advocating for women’s rights, both inside and outside the clinic?
The reproductive rights community is full of amazing humans. Volunteer at your local Planned Parenthood – you can be a counselor or patient escort. Read or watch the news. Write letters to your local or national newspaper, join your Medical Students for Choice (MSFC) chapter – or create one! I found MSFC conferences to be soul-feeding experiences when medical school would get me down. Talk about abortion and contraception in your everyday life and with your patients – it is a part of most peoples’ lives yet is often relegated to the shadowy sidelines of acceptable conversation.
5 | What is a typical day like for you?
My life in fellowship is so much better than my life in residency. In residency, I lived the 80-hour work week for real. As a fellow, I almost never wake up before 6 AM (even if I should, I often don’t on principle). My day is generally either clinic, OR, MPH classes or research time. I finish most days before 6 PM, and then will meet my friends or husband at yoga or Crossfit before having a late dinner, watching some TV and going to bed. I average seven hours a night of sleep, which is pretty functional for me. I typically work 1-2 weekend days a month.
6 | How do you maintain your work-life balance?
It’s important to remember your partner is on the same journey you are, with less validation and reward. It is never okay to devalue their work because they didn’t work 80 hours this week. Being a resident, fellow or doctor is never an excuse to be rude to your loved ones.
I survived residency by Crossfitting – it was an activity I loved and could do with my husband. I would spend all day thinking and worrying. When I got to the gym someone would just tell me what to do and for how long, so I could just turn my brain off, listen to loud music and do it. It was always worth making the time to go!
7 | What was your biggest struggle throughout your medical training/practice to date?
I almost failed my first semester of medical school anatomy class! I am a “big picture” thinker and really struggled with the hyper-detailed memorization paradigm. What it has taught me is it is important to know your own weaknesses, and to know what you don’t know, and when you should be double-checking yourself. Your pride is never worth jeopardizing patient safety.