By Guest Blogger Page Leggett, Novant Health contributing writer
When Natalie Rochester, MD, talks to her patients who have newborns in the NICU, she does it with genuine empathy.
Her oldest daughter – Caroline, now 12 – landed in the NICU when she was born six weeks early. She was born when Rochester was nearing the end of her residency. “That experience gave me a different perspective,” she said. “I know how it feels to see your newborn hooked up to wires and how it feels to leave the hospital without your baby. Even with medical knowledge, I felt kind of hopeless. It was an emotional roller coaster.”
Rochester and her family recently moved to Kernersville for her new role as a physician leader at Novant Health Kernersville Medical Center, preparing to open the new birth center in spring 2024. This will be the first time the center has offered maternity services.
Rochester’s the right person for the job. She has experience starting a new hospital maternity program from scratch. After she finished her residency, she and her husband, Daniel, both North Carolina natives – moved to Colorado, where she practiced for 10 years. While there, she also opened a brand-new hospital as part of her work with her University of Colorado-affiliated healthcare system.
“I had the privilege of being the medical director of the women and children’s unit,” she said. “I was there before the hospital even opened and helped train the nursing staff. We did drills to make sure we had all our processes lined up. I got a full-scope view of what it takes to open a new unit, which was mind-blowing.”
In Kernersville, she’ll continue doing what she loves, a combination of gynecological surgeries and deliveries. In her most recent role, she spent about 40% of her time in surgery and 60% on deliveries. She appreciates the variety: “I love being in clinic one day providing primary care, doing surgery the next and delivering a baby the next.”
She does complicated hysterectomies with the assistance of a robot and more straightforward hysterectomies laparoscopically. She’s excited to build her team and to begin offering those services in Kernersville.
Rochester is also excited to help build the labor and delivery team. A key element will be the option of having a midwife involved in deliveries. “I have longstanding experience working with midwives, and I think a good, knowledgeable midwife is an incredible asset,” she said. “I had a midwife deliver my second baby. In fact, I had a midwife and an epidural, which most people seem to think is incongruous.”
Although she’ll have an administrative role again in Kernersville, she’ll have plenty of patient contact, which she loves.
A pregnant calf delivers
Her parents always figured she’d go into medicine. “I remember my first doctor’s kit I got at Christmas,” she said. “I tortured everyone by making them pretend to be sick.”
Her first delivery experience happened when she was just 10 on her grandfather’s dairy farm. One of his cows was pregnant with twin calves. “I watched him pull those calves out,” she said. “And the second one was malpositioned. I was in awe – of both my grandfather and the birth. It was terrifying and amazing. Still today, every time I witness a birth, I consider it a miracle.”
Back home again
Rochester’s new job puts her and her husband close to family. Her in-laws live in the Winston-Salem area; her family is in eastern North Carolina. This is a year of big changes for the family. Her husband, who has a background in business management and finance, is a stay-at-home dad. And he recently became their daughters’ elementary school teacher.
“We decided to home-school this year because of our midyear move,” she said. “We will have moved twice in two years, and that’s a lot of upheaval. This was one way to reduce the amount of change Caroline and Carleigh (8) go through.”
Given all the changes the whole family is undergoing, Rochester is eager to get settled in her clinic and begin caring for patients. It’s something she’s exceptionally good at.
She knows many women are nervous about seeing a doctor – and especially an ob-gyn. “A lot of women have fear – of doctors, of pelvic exams, of labor and delivery, of surgery,” she said. “I want patients to understand their options and the pros and cons of each. I like to try to understand the root of the fear and minimize it, if I can.”
Interested in delivering at Novant Health Kernersville Medical Center?
Novant Health WomanCare-Kernersville is now seeing prenatal patients who wish to plan their birth experience with us.
*Sponsored by Novant Health