By Jennifer Logue
Dr. Ingrid Carlson practiced medical gynecology at the Mayo Clinic, where she specialized in diagnosis and surgery and treated women from around the world. She recently opened Wise Women, a practice that specializes in care for women over 40, in Nocatee Town Center.
What services does Wise Women offer its patients?
We offer comprehensive non-surgical gynecology in a spa-like setting, with a focus on women over 40. We can do hormone replacement, health screening, contraception, IUDs, biopsies, colposcopy, among many others – we offer a wide range of services.
What motivated you to start a practice focused on treating mature women?
Getting older changes the conversation. We’re done with childbearing and, much like puberty, the body is going through some intense changes. We also become more at risk for certain types of cancers. Mature women just have different challenges and questions. Things that came easily before can be harder to maintain. Being on the mature side myself, I can appreciate and enjoy the different focus.
How does your practice differ from those that accept patients of all ages?
I’ll never get called away from the office to deliver a baby! Although OB/GYN is considered a surgical specialty, most gynecology really doesn’t require surgery. I was a surgeon myself prior to joining Mayo Clinic, and I do have surgeons I trust in the community to whom I can refer if surgery is recommended. Most women would rather find a nonsurgical solution to their issues and I can help them with that. I actually do have the honor of taking care of the daughters of some of my colleagues – I have done many first pelvic exams – so I have quite an age range in my practice, but we really focus on mature women.
I do not handle obstetrical care, so there are no pictures of babies or toys in my waiting room, and the energy in the office is serene and unhurried. I like to talk with patients in my office first and then we go to the exam room, where we have dimmers on the lights, bathrobes and slippers, and a low-rise table so no one has to “hop up” anywhere. Both exam rooms have their own private bathroom and scale. The entire office is ADA compliant, of course. Since no one ever likes to have to walk across an entire medical center, it’s nice that the parking is right next to the front door. I have tried to create a gynecology office that I would want to go to myself.
How did you become interested in gynecology as a medical specialty?
It sort of evolved, really. Michigan State University is a very primary care focused school. About half of their graduates go into some kind of primary care and I was no exception. I was in a family medicine residency for a year, but found myself hanging out on the OB floor when my other rotations were slow or I had free time. I had so many people ask me why I wasn’t doing OB/GYN that I had to finally ask myself that question. I switched to OB/GYN and loved every part of it. I’ve been taking care of women my entire life – I have three daughters – so it came naturally. Everyone seems to have had at least one bad experience with gynecology care and I thought maybe I could make a positive difference.
You practiced at the Mayo Clinic for several years. What prompted you to open an office in Nocatee?Every day at Mayo Clinic, at least two of my many patients per day would ask if I could be their regular doctor, but Mayo Clinic really isn’t set up that way. I diagnosed problems and made recommendations for treatment. Mayo Clinic focuses on diagnosis and surgery, but routine care is usually referred back to a woman’s established physicians. When I was there, I might have seen eight to 10 new patients a day from all over the world and never see them again. I diagnosed and treated conditions that many physicians only read about or see occasionally and it was very interesting. I also taught primary care residents how to do gynecology without hurting anyone and I found that very rewarding, because I’m all about preventing pain. I also discovered a previously unknown condition that causes recurrent urinary symptoms in women, which will be published soon.
But I’m a big believer in preventive medicine, and the older women I saw were having trouble even getting in with a gynecologist because, in general, the OB/GYN focus is on obstetrics and surgery. After being asked so many times if I could be someone’s regular doctor, I found that I really wanted to start saying yes. I spoke with my husband about it and we agreed that it was time. Nocatee is a very welcoming place and we had a great experience with the builder, architect and other professionals who helped to make Wise Women happen. It’s been the best career decision I’ve ever made. I love it.
What brought you to the Jacksonville area?
The position at Mayo Clinic brought me here initially, but we fell in love with the area immediately. Jacksonville has so much to offer and we feel so blessed to be here.
Are there any civic or charitable groups with which you’re involved?
I’m involved with the Ponte Vedra Woman’s Club, a philanthropic organization that raises money for area charities. I am also a member of the Women’s Business Owners of North Florida, which supports women who are in business for themselves. I’m a member of the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce, as well as local, state and national medical associations.
How do you enjoy spending your free time?
I love to fish from the beach and walk and bicycle with my husband. I also love home improvement projects: Our home now bears no resemblance to the house we bought three years ago! It’s become a giant art project. I’ve found as I get older, though, that the most important things in life are my family and friends – I treasure being able to spend time with so many wonderful and loving people. Life is incredibly short and time is precious.
Photo by Jasmine Marshall