How Maternal Health Became a Passion for Dr. Sophia Stone
Spend just a few moments with Dr. Sophia Stone and it is easy to see why women and families trust her with their pregnancies. Intelligent, courteous, soft-spoken while still self-assured, she has the kind of presence that women often look for in an obstetrician or gynecologist. They are also qualities that make her a valuable mentor for AUC medical students.
Dr. Stone has been affiliated with AUC’s clinical program for three years. She began as an OB/GYN clerkship director at St. Richard’s Hospital in Chichester, UK and was selected to chair AUC’s OB/GYN clinical education in February of 2017. With 20 years’ experience in the field, she brings vast expertise to AUC’s clinical program and OB/GYN curriculum.
A Labor of Love on the Labor Ward
Dr. Stone’s decision to pursue OB/GYN came after several positive experiences in medical school.
“I don’t know if I was just lucky or what but I was met with a lot of enthusiasm by the midwives during my OB/GYN clinical clerkship,” she recalls. “They pulled me into rooms to deliver babies, see interesting patients, learn how to suture, assist the obstetricians at Caesarean sections and close my first abdomen. With that enthusiasm and excitement came a natural interest.”
She went on to specialize in maternal medicine at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London, focusing on expectant mothers with pre-existing medical conditions like diabetes, heart disease, kidney failure and lung problems, which can complicate a pregnancy. Working with these women, Dr. Stone navigates the challenging course of keeping both mother and baby safe throughout the pregnancy—a role that requires her to problem solve and think quickly while remaining calm.
“At the end of the day, I’m very happy with my decision; OB/GYN is an extremely rewarding profession.”
An Unforgettable Patient Leads to a New Interest
A turning point in Dr. Stone’s career came during a three-year stint at a Lupus pregnancy clinic in London. There, she met a young woman with several medical issues that had resulted in multiple miscarriages and a stillbirth. Having experienced so many challenges, she decided to have a surrogate mother carry her pregnancy. A few weeks after that decision, she found out that she was pregnant.
Dr. Stone was a junior member of the team that cared for the woman throughout her pregnancy, keeping close watch on both her and the baby while administering high doses of blood thinners. She recalls it being a difficult pregnancy but an unforgettable journey that gifted her two children.
“As a result of that case, I became really interested in women with underlying medical conditions. Shortly after, I wrote a research thesis on pathogenesis of the late pregnancy complications of Antiphospholipid Syndrome, a condition associated with Lupus.”
On What Excites Her about the Future of OB/GYN
Today, Dr. Stone is encouraged by the global work to improve mortality and morbidity related to childbirth. In the UK, she has seen a marked decrease in the number of women dying from pre-eclampsia, a condition that was once the leading cause of maternal death. While 40,000 women each year die from pre-eclampsia worldwide, just two died from the condition in the UK between 2012 and 2014. Dr. Stone would like to see her country develop guidelines and best practices for other countries to prevent pre-eclampsia related deaths.
In the field of gynecology, Dr. Stone thinks the future will bring a shift in where gynecologic care is delivered.
“Gynecology is changing a lot in the way the service is provided,” she says. “I think more and more of it will be centered at large hospitals rather than at a local gynecologist because the number of people needing hysterectomy is rapidly diminishing. So many other procedures and treatments exist today that can prevent that from happening. In that respect, it’s a really evolving specialty.”
On Why AUC Students Should Consider OB/GYN
When asked why students should consider OB/GYN as a profession, Dr. Stone is quick to list the reasons.
In addition to being a rewarding career, OB/GYN has a lot of diversity. In the Unites States, there are four primary OB/GYN subspecialties: gynecologic oncology, reproductive endocrinology and fertility, maternal fetal medicine, and female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery. Each fellowship is three years long with one full year dedicated to research. Physicians can also focus on different aspects of OB/GYN, whether it be breastfeeding medicine, family planning, pediatric and adolescent gynecology, or obesity in pregnancy.
For medical students interested in surgery, emergency medicine, or diagnostics, she suggests keeping OB/GYN open as a possibility.
“One minute I’m in the clinic, the next I’m in surgery,” she says. “There are a lot of emergency scenarios in Ob/GYN which are just as exciting and interesting as you would see in an emergency room.”
Dr. Stone is also quick to dispel the idea that obstetricians and gynecologists struggle to have a good work-life balance.
“First and foremost, you have to choose something that you are interested in,” she says. “After that, you can overcome anything.”
After having her first child, Dr. Stone went part-time to just three days a week. Her workdays involved long hours and overnight shifts but that allowed her to have half of the week at home. The training took longer but Dr. Stone says it was manageable. Now a mother to three girls, she has been able to have a successful career and a balanced family life.
That, according to Dr. Stone, is something that many women in her field achieve. While some women work part time, others do a job share or work in a less demanding environment. Others are able to work out a family dynamic where their spouse is the primary caregiver.
Regardless of clinical interest or career direction, Dr. Stone offers the following advice to medical students during their rotations:
“Look interested and be interested, ask questions, and get involved in patient care. Instead of standing around, ask if you can assist and your attendings and residents will make more of an effort to involve you in care. Attempt to see as many patients as you can and practice talking to them. Medicine is all about social interaction and it will behove you to speak with people of all lifestyles. This, I promise you, is much more valuable that sitting at home in front of a textbook.”