Jan Shifren, MD, is the director of the Midlife Women’s Health Center in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Describe your journey into healthcare. What do you love about science and medicine?

My father was an OB/GYN in Boston for almost 50 years and he truly loved his work. It was a rare trip to a restaurant or shopping center where a grateful parent did not rush over to Dad to show off a baby or toddler. I followed his footsteps into OB/GYN, but then subspecialized in reproductive endocrinology and infertility because I found the interaction between hormones and women’s health fascinating. My current clinical work involves helping reproductive-aged women build their families with infertility treatments in the Fertility Center while helping midlife women manage the symptoms and challenges of the transition through menopause in the Midlife Women’s Health Center.

My research is focused on midlife women’s health, in particular trying to better understand and treat concerns related to sexual function and the genitourinary syndrome of menopause. What I love about the interaction between science and medicine is that my patients teach me the questions we still need to answer while research helps us address those questions. I enjoy the mix of activities my job includes each day – teaching our fellows and residents, providing care to women of all ages and working with research colleagues.

How long have you worked at Mass General?

I was a medical student at Harvard Medical School with rotations at Mass General, completed my OB/GYN residency at the combined Mass General and Brigham & Women’s program, and returned here as a faculty member after a fellowship in San Francisco. Except for a few years spent in California, I have been wandering the halls of Mass General for almost 30 years!

What is special about Mass General?

Everyone here shares a mission to provide the best patient care possible and inform that care with evidence and research. I never hesitate to refer a friend or family member to one of our clinicians, even if it is someone I’ve never worked with, as I know they will receive excellent care.

Why is Women’s History Month important to you?

Women have made extraordinary contributions to medicine and science throughout history, yet this story is not always told. Women’s history month give us a chance to focus on this important history. 

Have you encountered any challenges on your journey as a woman, and if so, how did you overcome them?

Unlike the ‘pioneers’, the women who were the first in their medical school classes, PhD programs and residencies, I feel very fortunate that throughout my career, there has been tremendous support and encouragement for women to advance in science and medicine. Trying to create work/life balance is probably one of the greatest challenges for many women in medicine and science. It is a demanding career and you have to become comfortable with not being the ‘perfect’ parent, partner, clinician or scientist.

When I’m advising women about this challenge, I start by sharing that ‘work/life balance’ is a misnomer - ‘work/life juggle’ is a more accurate description, as there is rarely ‘balance’!

 


Jan Shifren, MD, is the director of the Midlife Women’s Health Center at Mass General. The center brings together experts from more than 15 specialties to improve, promote and advance healthcare for women at menopause and beyond through research, collaboration and education.

In addition to clinical care the Midlife Women’s Health Center offers a yearly community education conference. This year’s conference, “Midlife Women: Staying Healthy and Well”, will take place on April 25th from 4:30-6:30 pm. Visit the conference page to learn more about the event and this year's speakers.