New obstetrician knows importance of women’s health

Published 12:14 am Sunday, October 2, 2011

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT Dr. LaToya Walker, obstetrician and gynocologist, joined the Natchez Regional Medical Center staff in August.

NATCHEZ —While Dr. LaToya Walker takes her job as an obstetrician and gynecologist seriously, her approachable demeanor and ease-putting laugh helps women feel comfortable — sometimes in their most uncomfortable moments.

Natchez Regional Medical Center’s newest OBGYN joined the hospital staff in August.

At top, Walker examines Rocheller Green at Natchez Regional Wednesday afternoon.

Walker, a New Orleans native, was focused on the surgery track in medical school. But mandatory rotation, meant to expose young doctors to all aspects of medicine, took Walker in a different direction.

Fortunately, Walker still has the opportunity to perform surgeries, as that duty is part of a triangle of care that includes medicine and women’s health.

“I fell in love with the combination,” Walker said.

As an obstetrician, Walker said she must use her medical knowledge to think through multi-layered health issues. Walker said one example would be caring for a pregnant woman with diabetes or hypertension.

From quick gynecological procedures to bigger ones, like C-sections or hysterectomies, Walker must be steady with surgical instruments.

“It’s a nice blend,” Walker said. “Not doing, not seeing the same thing every day. That’s nice. And we have no typical patients.”

Walker said when visiting with a patient for the first time, she will perform a physical exam.

Walker said it is very important for women to maintain annual exams for a number of reasons — one being cervical cancer — easily treatable, but a killer if it’s caught too late.

“No one should die of cervical cancer this day in age,” Walker said.

Embarrassment or discomfort over a pelvic examination might cause women to avoid annual appointments, Walker said.

“I get it,” she said. “But it’s so important. Especially if you have a history of abnormal pap smears. And unfortunately, some women just don’t care.”

A woman’s awareness of her sexual and reproductive health history is a cornerstone of preventative care, Walker said.

Walker stressed the importance of breast exams as well. She said women should know their breasts, and not be scared to ask basic questions about breast cancer.

“Seventy percent of women diagnose themselves,” Walker said. “If it’s to the point where I’m diagnosing, it could already be stage three cancer.”

Part of Walker’s job is to also identify and prescribe contraceptives, tailored to a woman’s needs and lifestyle.

“It’s important for women to take care of themselves,” Walker said. “Women sometimes put off their problems to deal with other people’s problems. But the best medicine is preventative.”

For many patients, Walker said gynecologists serve as primary care physicians.

“We also help with other problems, like depression,” Walker said. “If I don’t know what’s wrong, I refer them.”

When not dressed in her white coat, Walker is an amateur photographer. Walker said she is also a doll collector with a life-long love for the ultimate embodiment of feminine symbolism — Barbie.

Walker is certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Her educational background includes medical school, research and residency.

She earned her undergraduate degree at Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans. Following a fellowship at the University of New York’s Stony Brook School of Medicine, she graduated from Ross University School of Medicine in New Jersey in 2005, and completed residency at Jersey Shore Medical Center.

Walker said being a doctor in residency is nothing like you see on the ABC drama “Grey’s Antatomy.”

“I don’t wake up looking that good,” she joked. “It’s more like ‘Scrubs.’ We always joked around.”

Walker said that living and working in Natchez reminds her of home.

“I picked the right place,” she said.

Walker said health-wise, the community is pretty informed as a whole, but she has a message to women in the Miss-Lou. No matter how squeamish the thought of a stainless steel speculum makes you, make your health a priority.

“If a woman is healthy — the whole family is likely to be healthy.”