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Doctors Tera Conway and Paula Duncan: Best Friends, Colleagues and Professional Partners, Making a Difference in Women's Health

By Nancy Kennedy

In 2006, when two young women met as freshmen medical students in an accelerated program at Northeast Ohio Medical University, they had no idea that their lives were about to intersect in significant ways. Tera Conway and Paula Duncan quickly became friends, and their friendship was cemented by their shared struggle to cope with the often overwhelming challenges of medical school. Unexpectedly, they both chose the same medical specialty: obstetrics and gynecology. It made perfect sense to them that, after graduation in 2009, they would end up in the same city, Pittsburgh, doing their residencies together, an experience that strengthened their friendship. And, in the fall, their relationship will take on another dimension, when they both join the OB-GYN practice of Paul Zubritsky, M.D., and Patrick Christy, M.D., and become members of the Medical Services Staff of St. Clair Hospital.

"Tera and I plotted all this," laughs Duncan. "We met in medical school and have gone through so much together. Med school is tough; you make a lot of sacrifices, but it's absolutely worth it. Tera and I both love what we do."

Until she was a high school sophomore, Duncan had not considered a career in medicine. She attended a health careers conference, and that experience lit a fire within her. She is happy with her decision to specialize in OB GYN. "I had never considered OB GYN, but my OB experience changed everything. Most med students don't have any idea of the breadth of what we do. OB GYN is primary care. We do preventive care plus solve problems.

"What we get to do is incredible. I can't believe that I get to be part of these moments – it never gets old. I still get choked up when a father cries in the delivery room. The low's hit hard, when there's a loss, but the work we do is beautiful."

Duncan completed two years of her residency at West Penn Hospital, and the final year at Magee. She has a special interest in traumatic birth experiences: "Labor has a huge impact and when the experience has been traumatic, a woman can develop post-partum depression and even post-traumatic stress disorder. My other interest is in preventive care and empowering young women to protect themselves. Their behavior now can have a tremendous impact on later life." Duncan grew up near Akron but loves her adopted city. "My husband is from Pittsburgh and we've lived here since 2009. We live in the South Hills, so I know how positively St. Clair Hospital is perceived here, and it's nationally ranked as well."

For Conway, St. Clair Hospital feels like a perfect fit. "St. Clair is a nice size hospital where I can get to know the staff - the physicians, nurses and the rest of the team. St. Clair has a reputation for excellent patient care; the pediatrics and Ob GYN departments are wonderful and you can find a consultant in any medical specialty. Everyone there has been kind and friendly; it's a welcoming environment."

Conway chose obstetrics and gynecology because she appreciates the variety of it. "I love labor and delivery. It's amazing to deliver babies! I've delivered about 500, and I think it's the best thing in the world. I like surgery, and have an interest in minimally invasive procedures, such as laparoscopic hysterectomies. I like having relationships with patients. I view them as partners; together we create a plan that meets their individual needs. When you come to see me, we'll have a conversation about you and your medical history, discuss what screenings you need, and do an exam."

Preventive care will be emphasized in her practice, she says. "My advice to patients is to be proactive about preventive care and screenings. Keep your Pap smears up to date and get mammograms and colonoscopies when they are due. Lead a healthy lifestyle – no need to be extreme, just be reasonable."

Conway and her husband, a general surgeon, live in Morningside. They manage the stress of their demanding professions with travel and outdoor activities. "We especially love skiing, scuba diving, biking and kayaking. Kayaking on the Allegheny River is peaceful; the river is so pretty." Duncan and Conway are excited to be joining the same practice. "We've always worked together well, as Paula is so easy to get along with," says Conway. "She's an excellent, all-around physician, too." Duncan is equally admiring of Conway: "Tera is a positive person, and a wonderful friend and co-worker. She's incredibly kind and has an inner strength to which people gravitate naturally."

Both are eager to begin practicing in the fall. "Drs. Zubritsky and Christy have been gracious and kind to us," says Duncan, and Conway echoes her sentiments: "I'm looking forward to working with Paula and I know that, with Dr. Zubritsky and Dr. Christy, we're going to make a great team."

Drs. Zubritsky and Christy can be reached at the following office locations: Robinson Township: (412) 788-1330 Kennedy Township: (412) 331-1623 Mt. Lebanon: (412) 788-1330

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