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Glenwood Springs doctor mixes passions with her new book

Stina SiegGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Chad Spangler Post Independent
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GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Shelley Binkley knows that “user friendly” isn’t a term people often associate with the health care industry.And she’d love to change that. Recently, the local obstetrician and mother of two published “Do It Yourself Baby,” a 202-page guide to pregnancy. The point of this book, she explained, is not to give people a dense “encyclopedia of birth,” but a concise guide to the world of child bearing. As Binkley described it, the piece is personal and accessible – and that’s the very core of her career.”I want them to feel empowered,” she said, of her readers. “I want them to feel confident about pregnancy, not scared by it.”

Binkley, 42, was talking from the kitchen of Alpine Women’s Care, her private practice in Glenwood. She kept smiling as she spoke of her job and about all the people she gets to meet, all the anecdotes she gets to hear. She’s clearly enamored of what she’s doing. It was kind of a surprise to learn that her first love was actually something else. Growing up in Philadelphia, she wanted to be a writer. Her mom, however, noticed her aptitude in science and thought she might as well do something that could make her a living. Her mother’s druthers won out, and Binkley ended up studying biology at Swarthmore College. Half way through, however, she got scared, afraid her impending enrollment in medical school would sap away all her creative juices. Instead, she applied for the veterinary program at Colorado State University and got in. In the end, though, she didn’t go.”I just decided that, ultimately, I wanted to take care of women,” she said.So she continued down that path. For a long while, she was right about being artistically stifled. In her years at Temple University in Philadelphia, she didn’t write. In fact, she wouldn’t begin again until she was in her early 30s. While at Temple and her residency (at University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver), she went through training she described as “dehumanizing.” It was the kind of learning that was fueled not by the love of knowledge but by the fear of humiliation. She felt she came out of all this hands-on experience a technically good doctor. But she also couldn’t help but notice that an emotional component was left out of her studies.As she put it, “I think medical training makes you lose some of your compassion.”Her answer to getting it back was just listening. “I really love working with women,” she said. “One of the things I love about working with women is their stories.”Her eyes were shining as she mentioned that, and she ended up repeating the sentiment throughout the conversation. The reason she had entered women’s medicine in the first place, she explained, was that she wanted to be exposed to females of all ages and backgrounds. She can’t relay their stories to other patients, but she can put someone’s experience in a context from all she has learned from these other women. It’s about sharing and growing from real-world experiences. Even before she decided to write books, she was already becoming dedicated to this more holistic approach to medicine. Her beefs with the medical industry are many (from physician training, to costs and so on). In her experience, the pervading mindset among doctors is entirely paternalistic. They think that they have all the answers – and the patients have none.

Binkley talked like she wanted to turn that on its head. Everyone has a wealth of medical information, from their own history and that of family and friends. Why not harness it?”I’m interested in offering a new model for people with medical care,” she said. “It’s kind of a way to get that collective knowledge available to other people.”While, a decade ago, she began penning fictionalized medical stories, more recently she’s segued into fusing her desire to write with something more altruistic. She still does poetry, but it’s her new line of medical books that have given her “a new lease on life,” she said.”DIY Baby” is made up partially of Binkley’s knowledge and partly of the experiences of the thousands of deliveries she’s attended and the countless patients she’s had (all anonymous, of course). Her upcoming books, “Get a Grip! On Your Hormones!”, “Omit Needless Worry: Awakening Your Power to Manage Anxiety” and “Contraception to Evolution” (a high-concept piece about birth control) will take a similar approach. Beginning soon, she’ll be starting a women’s medical blog, http://www.healthewoman.org, which is meant to create even more of an easily understood, simply digested dialogue. All of this effort, she hopes, will help put a human face to her profession. She feels it’s not her job to tell people what to do. It’s her duty to give them all the information she can and help them choose where to go from there. The first part of all this, though, is just making people feel comfortable enough to share.”There’s this saying, ‘You’re only as sick as your secrets,'” she said.As she sees it, it’s time to take the mystery out of medicine.



Contact Stina Sieg: 384-9111ssieg@postindependent.com


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