Addressing Women’s Health Concerns: An Interview with Dr. Iana Malasevskaia
Today we have the privilege of interviewing Dr. Iana Malasevskaia, an obstetrics and gynecology specialist who has been working in the Republic of Yemen. Dr. Malasevskaia will share her experience and journey as a physician, her challenges and successes as a woman in healthcare, and her research in the field of women’s healthcare, including her work on the transplantation of the uterus. We are excited to have her here to discuss her experiences and insights on addressing women’s health concerns.
HELLO DR. IANA MALASEVSKAIA, WELCOME TO BLACKBIRD NEWS! CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY TO BECOMING A PHYSICIAN AND SPECIALIZING IN OBSTETRICS AND GYNECOLOGY?
I have always been passionate about human health, protecting lives and enhancing the well-being of others. My grandaunt is a pediatrician, and I have always admired how smart, intelligent, and respected she is. Day after day, I became confident that I would love to become a physician. Advancing the health of my fellow women was a passion I had developed during my days as a medical student. I remember the day I entered the labor room and saw a woman giving birth. She was crying due to painful contractions. Thereafter, I was confident that I wanted to be an obstetrics and gynecology specialist to learn how to help women have a less painful delivery. Eventually, this led me to pursue a career in obstetrics and gynecology, following which I found myself in Sana’a, Yemen, where I have been working as an obstetrics and gynecology specialist
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE A CAREER IN WOMEN’S HEALTHCARE, AND WHAT DO YOU FIND MOST REWARDING ABOUT YOUR WORK?
As I mentioned before, the passion for obstetrics and gynecology developed during medical school. The most rewarding thing about my work is the moment of handing a baby to a parent. The greatest miracle of all is bringing life into the world and it never gets old. I am very happy to be a part of that journey.
WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES YOU’VE FACED AS A PHYSICIAN WORKING IN THE REPUBLIC OF YEMEN, AND HOW HAVE YOU OVERCOME THEM?
Very good question. I am originally from the Republic of Moldova, which is a European country. Thus, moving to Yemen, it was very challenging to me. Life in Yemen is arduous, given the crisis afflicting the country. This has inspired me to be more diligent in improving the lives and well-being of the people of this country. I have been fortunate to have received opportunities to learn Arabic, new culture and new cuisine, furthermore, I also enhanced my clinical skills as an obstetrics and gynecology specialist.
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE LEARNING THE ARABIC LANGUAGE AND ADAPTING TO A NEW CULTURE?
Most experts will list Arabic as one of the hardest languages in the world to learn, if not the most difficult. However, in my opinion when you love to learn something new, and to get all information from the patient in a right way, not depending on the translator, you can learn anything. And my goal was to have a confident and understandable conversation with my patients. Thus, I was able to conduct all my consultations without any help from translators after only three months, which was unbelievable to my colleagues.
Yemen is a country with a diverse cultural heritage, with early Islam and the Sheba Kingdom serving as major cultural influences. Of course, it was not easy to adapt to a new culture and traditions, however, Yemenis are welcoming people who value having strong relationships with their family and community. Yemenis are as hospitable as nice as you can imagine. Everyone is extremely interested in strangers, and the presence of a foreigner always draws attention. As a result, once the language barrier was overcome, acculturation to Yemeni society wasn’t that difficult and actually got easier.
HOW DO YOU BALANCE YOUR WORK AS A PHYSICIAN WITH YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES AS A MOTHER OF THREE CHILDREN?
Honestly, I never thought of having three kids, and till now I cannot believe that. Of course, it is not easy to manage work life balance being a mom of three. Being a practicing physician requires hard work, dedication, and a daily outpouring of empathy. Then there’s being a mother. Not only does motherhood necessitate all of the above, but you also want to spend as much precious time as possible with your children. However, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to my Yemeni family for their unending support
CONGRATULATIONS ON PASSING THE USMLE AND YOUR INTERVIEWS FOR RESIDENCY IN OBSTETRICS AND GYNECOLOGY IN THE USA. HOW DID YOU PREPARE FOR THE USMLE, AND WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER PHYSICIANS HOPING TO PRACTICE IN THE USA?
Thank you. In order to practice medicine in the US, we must prepare to pass the US Medical Licensing Examinations (USMLE), obtain certification from the Educational Commission for Foreign-Trained Medical Graduates, then enroll in a residency program. It is regarded as one of the twenty hardest tests in the world. And I can confirm that studying for this exam was extremely difficult. It took me two years to prepare for step one (along with English classes) and one year to prepare for step two. At the start of my journey, I doubted that I would succeed; however, I am a determined person, and if I want to accomplish something, I will.
My advice to other physicians who want to pass the USMLE is to start as soon as possible, preferably while still in medical school, to be consistent, and, of course, to be confident. Work hard, but smart. Always. Every single day.
YOUR ARTICLE ON TRANSPLANTATION OF THE UTERUS WAS CITED BY ÖMER ÖZKAN, WHO LED THE TEAM THAT PERFORMED THE FIRST TRANSPLANT OF UTERUS FROM THE WORLD FROM A FROM A DECEASED WOMAN. CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT THIS RESEARCH AND ITS SIGNIFICANCE IN THE FIELD OF WOMEN’S HEALTHCARE?
Around 8%–10% of couples worldwide experience infertility, which is a major health problem. Secondary infertility is when at least one past pregnancy has been obtained, while primary infertility is when a person has never been able to conceive. Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser (MRKH) syndrome, an uncommon condition affecting women, is one of the causes of primary infertility. In women who have normal ovarian function and normal external genitalia, it is defined by the failure of the uterus and the vagina to grow normally. The prevalence of MRKH syndrome, which is widely thought to occur in 1 in 5000 live female births, is still understudied. For women with absolute uterine factor infertility, uterus transplantation has been successfully offered as a therapy option.
I wrote a review article in 2021 after deciding to look on any developments in the care of women with the MRKH syndrome. Every information pertaining to the new treatment option, from the first uterine transplant performed in 2000 through 2021, is contained in my article. I had gathered all the data that was available on various websites. I was quite happy to see that my article had been referenced by Professor Ömer Özkan, who on August 9, 2011, retrieved a uterus from a cadaver, to perform the transplantation for a young infertile woman. Due to the fact that prior transplants used living donors’ organs, this was the world’s first procedure.
Thus, A promising method to enable pregnancy in patients with absolute uterine factor infertility, such as MRKH, is uterine transplantation.
YOU’VE PUBLISHED ARTICLES ON A VARIETY OF TOPICS RELATED TO WOMEN’S HEALTH, INCLUDING E-CIGARETTES DURING PREGNANCY AND THE IMPACT OF OBESITY ON PREGNANCY LOSS. WHAT LED YOU TO FOCUS ON THESE PARTICULAR AREAS, AND WHAT DO YOU HOPE YOUR RESEARCH WILL ACCOMPLISH?
And again, a very good question. Youth e-cigarette use (vaping, primarily with nicotine) has increased. Thus, our team decided to investigate the safety and outcome of using e-cigarettes. It was clear that they are not safe, nor harmless. E-cigarettes contain harmful chemicals, including some of the same toxic chemicals found in traditional cigarettes, and they are extremely hazardous to pregnant women. Our study’s goal was to review the most recent research on the effects of e-cigarettes during pregnancy and early life. The data presented strongly suggested that e-cigarette use during pregnancy (in an animal model) is harmful to the development of the fetal lung, heart, and central nervous system. Thus, the findings of clinical studies are significant enough to cause serious concern, and it is hoped that education will discourage pregnant women from using e-cigarettes.
Obesity is rapidly becoming a national epidemic, as we all know. Obesity, in addition to being a major health issue associated with a variety of diseases, increases the risk of miscarriage and pregnancy loss. Our goal was to look into the relationship between being overweight/obese and miscarriage. And, after reviewing published data, we discovered that obesity has a clear negative effect on the quality of women’s oocytes, embryos, hormones, and endometrial receptivity.
I hope that my colleagues appreciate and recognize my hard work. In order to answer specific questions, I share our findings with others, increasing their understanding of difficult topics while also strengthening my research, writing, and analytical skills.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO ASPIRING PHYSICIANS, PARTICULARLY WOMEN INTERESTED IN PURSUING A CAREER IN OBSTETRICS AND GYNECOLOGY?
While obstetrics and gynecology is a wonderful specialty, it is not for everyone. The lifestyle is more difficult than most because you will frequently be on call for various emergencies. Only if you truly love it, and even then, it is a significant sacrifice.
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE, BOTH IN TERMS OF YOUR WORK AS A PHYSICIAN AND YOUR RESEARCH INTERESTS?
I hope to continue my training in the United States because I believe there is no better place to receive high-quality training in practice environments.
In terms of research, my current focus is on stem cell therapy in premature ovarian failure/insufficiency, which occurs when a woman’s ovaries stop working normally before the age of 40 which causes fertility issues. And I envision to achieve my goal with the help of Ayman Al-Hendy, professor and director of translational research at the University of Chicago’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. His research team is working on novel treatments for female infertility using mesenchymal stem cells and/or exosomes. I previously worked on a research project related to gynecological issues under the supervision of Professor Al-Hendy, and I am currently working on a new project related to uterine fibroids.
I hope that in the future, no woman will have to struggle to become a mother.
”Of all the rights of women, the greatest is to be a mother.” Lin Yutang.