10 Questions with ... Dr. Jen Ashton
May 19, 2015
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Board-certified Ob-Gyn at Hygeia Gynecology, LLC, Englewood, NJ. Author, medical contributor to Fox News Channel, TLC's "A Baby Story," CBS News, "The Doctors" (co-host, syndicated); Senior Medical Contributor, ABC News/"Good Morning America", 2012-present.
1. You come from a family of doctors and nurses, but you've taken your career in multiple directions, which raises the question: How did your media career come about? Did you always plan to serve a dual role in medicine and the media, or was it less expected?
My media career came about by accident. In 2006 I was introduced to Roger Ailes, the President of Fox News Channel, by a friend of mine who was an executive producer. Ailes put me on the air one day, and one week later, I was offered a contract. The rest is history! I now split my time 50/50 between my real medical clinical practice and my media responsibilities. Since both involve communicating medial information in ways that are impactful, clear and thorough, I consider them different shades of the same role.
2. In launching the new radio feature, what's your primary goal? What goals do you hope to accomplish with "Your Body"?
I hope to transform the way people think about health and information. Radio is a terrific medium to learn facts and figures easily and absorb new information. My goal is to teach listeners how to think like a doctor! And to understand that medicine and health doesnâ€™t have to be intimidating, scary, or boring.
3. What health topics do you think the public in general (and women in particular, since your specialty as an OB/GYN is women's health) is most misinformed about? What are the biggest misconceptions?
I think, sadly, health literacy is pretty low for many women and men. It is the responsibility of the medical professionals to educate, first and foremost. I think many women, in particular, are misinformed about subjects regarding hormones, reproductive health and heart disease. I plan to change that. Itâ€™s my mission â€“ both in my office, and on the radio.
4. In a similar vein, the average person is bombarded with health news of varying degrees of trustworthiness, and it seems like studies come out every day that contradict the previous day's studies. How can the general public sort through all the information -- what should they look for in judging whether to take, say, a diet tip or exercise advice to heart?
The fact that data is always evolving is a good thing. It means that science is continuing, and we are always learning. The confusion comes when people try to distill complicated medical issues to a one-liner. Nothing in life, or in medicine and science, is that simple. I plan to help people use the template of asking: What are the risks? What are the benefits? And what are the options?
5. Your practice in New Jersey is set up to be more like a spa than a medical office, and it seems like you're an advocate for making patients comfortable when you see them. Why do you think this hasn't been the standard (and still isn't), and do you think the rest of the medical establishment will follow your lead, or are we fated to always have the pale green walls and intimidating atmosphere of the stereotypical doctor's office or hospital?
When I opened my solo practice, I made it a priority to put my patientsâ€™ experience first and foremost. This involves making them feel comfortable, both literally and figuratively. Part of this was my commitment to building an eco-friendly office. My center was the first "green" medical practice in the state of New Jersey when we opened in 2008.
It is a priority of mine to make sure that my patients know that I care about their health, their experience and our environment: from the top down, and the bottom up. I chose to provide red-carpet medical care because women often put themselves last, while doing so much for others. At my office: we put them first. I strive to send the message that taking care of your health should be celebrated, and it should make you feel good. I think this type of practice hasnâ€™t been the standard because many health care providers arenâ€™t willing to splurge on their patients (I am), and also because they focus solely on medical care â€“ where I focus on the whole person. I strive to provide unparalleled medical care, with a deluxe touch.
6. Okay, so, you do a million things at once, we get it. How do you do it? Medical practice, TV, continuing your education, personal life, radio... how do you prioritize and fit everything in?
I admit that I like being busy â€“ really busy. Itâ€™s exciting to me, and I like that challenge. Itâ€™s a positive stress for me. I like to keep a lot of pots on the stove!
I would say I have a few strategies: 1) I work out every day, as much for my mind as for my body. 2) I get at least 7 hours of sleep at night, otherwise there is no way I would have the energy to try to do all that I do! 3) I practice meditation 20 minutes a day. It mentally invigorates me and keeps my stress level down. 4) I am 110% present in the moment. I focus. When I am seeing patients, Iâ€™m not thinking about TV. When Iâ€™m on the air, I am focused on the information I am discussing. And when Iâ€™m with my kids, I try to give them my undivided attention. 5) Iâ€™m un-conflicted. I donâ€™t allow guilt to rent space in my brain. Iâ€™m half Italian and Jewish so I have the double guilt gene! But I donâ€™t feel guilty for what Iâ€™m not doing. I focus on what I am doing. And my kids come first â€“they know that. But everything doesnâ€™t always get done in a day, and Iâ€™m ok with that. Thereâ€™s always tomorrow.
7. Who are your mentors, influences, and inspirations?
One of my role models is my own Ob-Gyn, Dr. Ben Pascario. He has been a huge influence and inspiration to me. Heâ€™s been my doctor for 30 years - he delivered my babies and he trained me in Ob-Gyn. He is brilliant, compassionate, committed, and the best technical surgeon Iâ€™ve ever worked with. I hope my patients feel the same way about me, as I do about him. I feel so lucky that he is my doctor, mentor and friend.
But my patients also inspire me. Every day I speak to women who have lived through incredible experiences. I try to put myself in their shoes, but I donâ€™t know that I would be able to do some of the things theyâ€™ve done. Grace, elegance, strength, stoicism: itâ€™s what women are about. Thatâ€™s why I went into this field of medicine!
8. Of what are you most proud?
Hands down: my children Alex and Chloe. They are amazing in their spirit, kindness, intelligence and maturity. Iâ€™m very lucky.
9. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without ___________.
10. What's the best advice you've ever gotten? The worst?
THE BEST: Remember that no matter how famous or ordinary someone appears to be, they put their pants on the same way you do: one leg at a time (my Dad told me this!)
THE WORST: Someone once told me that women will hate other women if they are too attractive. I disagree: I think women dislike women who are unkind. It has nothing to do with what they look like.