A Conversation with Dr. Mahnaz Ali
Can you tell us a bit about your clinical practice?
I work at a federally qualified health center called PCC Wellness Community Center in the Chicagoland area. I did my Family Medicine training from MacNeal Hospital and the University of Arizona with a fellowship in Maternal-Child Health at West Suburban Hospital. I practice full spectrum family medicine including OB.
What are some of the leading health concerns you see in women?
Many of women’s office visits are related to: STDs, depression, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, abnormal menses, hot flashes and obesity.
What are three important screening tests for women?
Pap smears for cervical cancer screening starting at age 21
STD screen once sexually active
Diabetes screen for any age woman with risk factors
I will also say mammograms for breast cancer screening starting at the age of 40.
How important is heart disease as a concern for women?
Very important. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women.
My daughter’s periods are very irregular, and I was told the pill can help. But I’ve also heard that the pill may not be safe, or may cause problems with fertility later – is that true?
The pill can help with regulating periods. Like any medications, pros and cons have to be weighed with the treatment benefit and the medication’s side effect profile, but the pill does NOT cause issues with fertility.
If my mother or aunt had breast cancer, does that increase my risk, and should I be screened earlier?
It may increase your risk and screening can start early at age 30-35.
At what point should a couple think about fertility testing if they are struggling to have a child?
I recommend patients to try to conceive naturally for 1 year. For women 35 or older, they can seek earlier intervention after 6 months of trying on their own.
What are some dietary recommendations for nursing and post-partum mothers?
I recommend moms to continue to take prenatal vitamins and eat a well balanced meal with iron and calcium.
How often do you see issues of emotional stress, domestic violence or other abuse in the community? What resources are available for women to start seeking help?
We screen all of out patients for domestic violence and most of our patients for anxiety/depression because they are very common. We are lucky to have a behavioral health specialist in each of out clinic sites or access to one in the system. We also have pamphlets and help lines.
Achieving balance always seems a top concern for many women – what advice do you have for women struggling to “balance it all”?
This is a tricky question because I don’t think its possible to “balance it all.” What really helps in trying to “do it all” is a great support system with friends and family. Don’t sweat it if you can’t do things perfectly or exactly the way you want it, things will fall into place.
What are a few positive health habits or routines you would recommend for women (e.g exercise, sleep, meditation/yoga or other habits)?
We all want to have healthy habits, but I think getting a restful sleep and exercising tops the list. Other forms of relaxation that are helping are yoga, meditation and massages.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job caring for women?
Getting to know women at a more personal level and helping them find a happier place in themselves. I love to see women gain confidence and take charge of their lives.