This week’s Meet a Mom interview is with Catherine Berzolla, M.D., a Greenwich Mom and Obstetrician/Gynecologist who has been practicing since 2010. She lives in Riverside with her husband, Michael-Joseph Merchanti-Anthony, and her two boys, Peter (7) and William (5). “I grew up in Riverside and my whole family, parents, four siblings and spouses, and nieces and nephews all still live here,” says Dr. Berzolla, whose husband just ran a successful race for the BOE. Says Dr. Berzolla: “Mike is thrilled about his new position on the Board of Education. I am not only proud of him, I truly look forward to all the things I know he will help the team accomplish to make our schools as great as we know they can be.” We spoke to Dr. Berzolla about her practice, her thoughts on the COVID vaccine for her pregnant patients, the mammogram advice she gives all her patients, and more.
What is your favorite part of being an OB-GYN?
My favorite part about my specialty is the relationships I make with my patients. Yes, I deliver babies….but there’s more. I have patients as young as 12 years old who are struggling with cramps while dealing with the evils of middle school, to women in their 80s who are living in a world where they’ve lost many contemporaries, including their partners, and I’m making sure they are still keeping up on their routine health exams. I often develop close relationships with my patients by nature of the things we discuss. I am there to support patients through major life events, both joyous and tragic: beginnings and ends of relationships, losses of children and partners, helping patients deal with substance abuse, whether a personal struggle or that of a loved one. I support patients with sexual function difficulties and sexuality. I am by patients’ sides when they are trying to start or grow families, whether it’s faster or slower than anticipated. And, of course, I get to be there at the moment their children come into the World (which by the way, never gets old).
How have you adapted your practice during COVID?
During COVID, we never stopped. Women kept having babies and we kept going to work. During its height, we limited our visits to expectant mothers and gynecologic emergencies, but we were back to a full panel of patients within 6 to 8 weeks.
At this time are you recommending your pregnant patients get the COVID vaccine?
Yes Yes Yes (including the booster).
We recently featured Nina Lindia, a breast cancer survivor who credits you ordering a baseline mammogram at 35 (instead of 40) for catching her cancer early. Can you talk about the importance of screening? Should all women be asking their doctor about getting screened at 35?
In my GYN practice I offer women a baseline mammogram between the ages of 35 and 40. This isn’t based on any society recommendation. I wouldn’t be caring appropriately for my patients if I relied solely on recommendations. I need to take my own experience into consideration. There are many women under the age of forty who would not have had their breast cancer diagnosed had it not been for a baseline mammogram—and early detection is the key to battling breast cancer. I happen to practice in a state with an increased prevalence of breast cancer that I have personally witnessed. In my opinion, the minimal radiation exposure is worth a life saved. I think it is reasonable for you to discuss the option of a baseline mammogram with your gynecologist.
Can you comment on why it’s important not to blow off annual appointments (like PAP tests or mammograms) even though it can seem like an extra hassle with COVID, busy mom life, etc.?
Despite COVID, unfortunately, cancer doesn’t care and we need to fight it. The best way to do that is with screening, so please continue to go for your Pap smears and mammograms.