Dr. Terri Vanderlinde: A Passion for Helping Women
Dr. Terri Vanderlinde of My Friend’s Gynecologist & Sexual Medicine in Dover, New Hampshire has devoted her life to helping women. She began her career as a high school science teacher at an all girls’ school, and was surprised to find that she could not answer all of her students’ questions about reproductive health. “I felt that I was letting them down,” she recalls. “I realized that there was a tremendous need for more education in this area.” Vanderlinde went back to school and became an obstetrician/gynecologist. After serving as a major in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, she entered private practice, joining a group of other physicians. However, she was soon dissatisfied with how modern medicine operates.
“I never felt right giving my patients just 15 minutes of my time,” she states. “I am seeing them at their most vulnerable when they come in for exams; many have questions and concerns, and I was supposed to rush them out the door. It was not how I wanted to practice medicine, nor how I felt medicine should be practiced.” Vanderlinde set out on her own, and stopped practicing obstetrics, instead choosing to focus on sex counseling, along with gynecology. “I’m one of only five doctors in New England who do sex counseling,” she explains, “and one of only two in New Hampshire. I’m not a sex therapist; I’m a counselor, which means that I bring that medical background to the discussion. I help women of all ages with all types of sexual issues. There is a tremendous need for this type of service. Sex plays an important role in our lives and relationships, yet many women don’t know where to go to get these issues addressed.”
Vanderlinde, who is board certified in obstetrics/gynecology, wanted to be sure that she could offer a wide range of treatments for her patients, so she also became educated in a range of alternative medicine therapies. “I prescribe traditional solutions such as surgery and medications, but also discuss vitamins, salves, herbal treatments and acupuncture. This way, I can suggest a variety of solutions for my patients, and they can choose what they feel most comfortable with.”
The new path has proven rewarding, for both Vanderlinde’s patients and for her. “I am energized by my patients,” she says. “I am so privileged to have their trust, in that they allow me to examine them and that they confide in me. I am humbled and honored to be entrusted with their care. Helping them resolve their issues and lead more fulfilling lives is rewarding beyond measure.”
While Vanderlinde loves working with her patients, she admits to being frustrated by the status of healthcare and the limitations of insurance, which she feels often prevent patients from getting the care they truly need. “I’ve spent my life studying the needs of women, learning about their bodies and how to treat their ailments, yet my knowledge as a doctor is not acknowledged. When I say my patient needs this procedure or treatment, too often the insurances don’t provide coverage, so the patient cannot get the care that they need. We as doctors spend too much time fighting with the insurance carriers over things that should not be in question, and that’s time that could be better served treating our patients. Medical care should not require so much debate.”
Vanderlinde is also passionate about physicians being able to return to a more personal level of healthcare, an approach that she feels is essential to a patient’s healing process.
“Every patient deserves adequate time and the doctor’s undivided, personal attention,” she says. “This is why we practice medicine—so that we can heal people. To me, that means taking the time to look my patient in the eye, take their hand, maybe even give them a hug if they are especially stressed. In other words, we should be able to engage in those moments of human connection and compassion, and not just conduct a rapid-fire medical history. Our patients deserve to be heard and feel listened to. I’ve seen firsthand how important this is. To me, taking this time is as important as any medicine I can prescribe. I hope that one day, we will find our way back to this being the standard of care.”