March 26, 2020 —
Featured photo: Dr. Corrie Miller with her newborn. Vina Cristobal photo.
Written by Marybeth Kotrodimos
UHP has a large and impressive OB/GYN department. In fact, our doctors have probably delivered more babies than any other healthcare group on Oahu. So who do our OB/GYN doctors turn to when they are having babies?
Recently, three of our doctors who work together in our OB/GYN Department at Kapiolani agreed to speak with us about their shared experience in caring for or being cared for by their colleagues and how it has affected the way they approach their patients.
This past fall, Dr. Cori-Ann Hirai cared for Dr. Corrie Miller when she was pregnant and delivered her baby. At the time, Dr. Hirai was pregnant and being cared for by Dr. Kimberly Nagamine, who has since delivered her baby.
Although we spoke with these doctors separately, they each reported similar feelings about being involved in this most important time in each other’s lives.
Dr. Kimberly Nagamine. Vina Cristobal photo.
“It was very special. I have delivered maybe thousands of babies at this point, but this was a unique experience,” said Dr. Nagamine about caring for Dr. Hirai and delivering her baby. “It was very surreal to see the baby come into the world, though I had taken care of her throughout her whole pregnancy.”
Dr. Nagamine said that this first time delivering the baby of a friend “sort of refreshed the reason why” she initially went into obstetrics. “Sometimes you lose sight of the fact that is a child that has been born, and that the mother’s life has totally and completely changed from the moment that they bring the baby home. I think that really hit home for me.”
Likewise, Dr. Miller said that the experience of having her baby was “really eye-opening – all the way from being pregnant to everything that comes after, because as an obstetrician, we really don’t do much helping moms with breastfeeding or taking care of their babies. It’s really just about everything up to labor and delivery. I feel like I can really connect with my patients now – post-partum as well.”
“I definitely think I can relate to my patients more,” Dr. Hirai said about the experience of being pregnant. “I can now say that I’ve lived through the different changes that people go through when they’re pregnant. I have more empathy.” She added that she thinks that when her patients saw her pregnant they listened to her advice a little more than they did previously, “like they think ‘she knows what she’s talking about because she’s going through the same thing I am.’”
Dr. Cori-Ann Hirai with baby Camila Komo. Cori-Ann Hirai photo.
Both Dr. Nagamine and Dr. Hirai mentioned how honored they were to be asked to serve as their colleagues’ obstetrician. Dr. Nagamine, who had trained with Dr. Hirai and described their relationship as “really close,” said, “It was definitely an honor when she was pregnant and told me that she was going to come to see me. I always looked up to her as a mentor and a friend. I know what a great physician she is and I wanted to live up to that.”
“It’s a privilege that your own colleague thinks highly enough of you that she wants you to care for her during this very important part of her life,” said Dr. Hirai about having Dr. Miller choose her as her obstetrician. This was especially true in her case, she said, because Dr. Miller “knows more” than she does, “and it was her first baby too!”
Dr. Hirai speaks about her choice to have a colleague care for her in her pregnancy as being a natural one, “Who better than one of your colleagues who you practice with day to day? You’ve seen how they practice and you can trust them and know they’re providing really good care.”
Similarly, Dr. Miller said, “Just seeing the medical care from someone you work with kind of verifies how I treat a patient, like how we work as a team.” She said it helped her see better “how all the components fit together.” She added that she chose Dr. Hirai “for many reasons. I saw her dedication to her patients. She’d always come in any hour of the night to take care of them. Also, just her bedside manner and attention to detail. She’s very dedicated.”
These doctors also talked about the added benefit of not needing to educate an OB/GYN doctor who is having a baby under their care. As Dr. Hirai said, “There’s not a lot of education that goes on” when one OB/GYN doctor is caring for another. Usually, the work of an obstetrician involves letting patients know what to expect and what exactly is happening in their bodies, but as her patient, Dr. Miller “could answer all her questions herself.”
Likewise, of her appointments with Dr. Hirai, Dr. Nagamine said, “I think a lot of our visits during the pregnancy were a little informal because obviously she knows a lot. It was nice.”
“It was really great for me,” Dr. Miller said of the experience of having Dr. Hirai care for her. “I also think it was really great for my husband because he had a lot of trust in [Dr. Hirai].” When Dr. Miller was having her c-section, people asked her if he was alright “and he said yes, because he knew everyone there. We had just had a barbeque with everyone there the day before!”
All around, Dr. Miller said, “Having the medical perspective of having to care for pregnancies, there wasn’t a lot of surprises.”
The idea of forming lasting relationships – both with each other and their patients – figured prominently in their conversations about what they do as doctors. “I really like the continuity of care,” Dr. Hirai said. “This field is one of the few in medicine in which you can see patients from when they are teenagers all the way into their elderly ages. You can form long-lasting relationships with patients over the course of time.”
All three physicians also expressed that a career in OB/GYN allowed them to share in a happy time in their patients’ lives. “Having a baby is one of the few times when you are happy to be in the hospital,” Dr. Hirai said.
“It’s really fun to deliver babies,” Dr. Nagamine said. “I mean you’re not just seeing patients because there’s something wrong with them.”
Listening to these doctors brings to light the dedication and the professionalism of UHP’s OB/G Department. We have good reason to be proud of them, and to know that Hawaii is lucky to have them.
“Our practice is pretty far-reaching,” said Dr. Nagamine. “We have our faculty practice, but then we also have a number of contracts with federally-funded centers that are dispersed throughout the island of Oahu, and there are a lot of patients who go to those centers and they deliver with us”. These patients would probably be underserved if not for these centers and our doctors, she said. “That is a big reason why I joined [UHP] – because it allowed me to fulfill that goal of mine to serve underserved patients. I think UHP does a really good job of reaching out to them.”