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Dr. Judith Balk Offers Care to Midlife Women at New Magee Specialty Services In Mt. Lebanon 

By Nancy Kennedy

Dr. Judith Balk

The women of the Pittsburgh region who have been fortunate enough to experience the exquisite care of Magee-Womens Hospital obstetrician-gynecologist Judith Balk, MD, will most likely name her expert clinical skills, her personal interest in her patients, her easy approachability and her openness to blending conventional medicine with complementary care as some of the traits they value in her. Balk is an exceptional physician: an OB-GYN who specializes in women’s health at midlife, a critical time in a woman’s life when she makes the transition from the childbearing years to the wisdom years. In her busy practice at Magee, Balk not only helps her patients with the physical challenges of peri-menopause and menopause, but also facilitates their journey to successful aging. As a clinician, she delivers excellence and expertise, but it is her self-chosen role as advocate for women, and her passion for women’s health, that truly sets her apart. When it comes to caring for and about women, Balk is a powerhouse of energy, empathy and empowerment.
At Magee, Balk is a staff physician with the Midlife Health Center, an associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Science, and assistant professor, Clinical and Translational Science. “I provide gynecology care with a focus on menopause,” she explains. “Today, menopause is viewed differently than in the past, and we are learning more about it all the time. We used to think it was all hot flashes and mood swings. Now we have better knowledge of how hormonal changes affect the body and the brain as well. Many women simply don’t feel like themselves; they’re tired and anxious. Some of these changes are hormonal but some probably are not. Menopause gets blamed for a lot of things that are more likely lifestyle issues. By the time they are 50, women need to be taking better care of themselves.”
Good self care means living a healthy lifestyle, primarily, plus seeing a doctor for regular check-ups and getting appropriate screenings, such as mammograms. But to Balk, it’s much more than that. “Health and successful aging are not achieved through medication and doctors. As I see it, health is composed of four essential factors: effective coping skills; social support; a healthy diet, and exercise. It’s never too late to start creating these in your life.”
In the not-so-distant past, menopause was referred to as “the change” – an obscure euphemism that suggested that there was something shameful about this perfectly normal physiologic transition. Today the word “change” is still associated with menopause, but in a far more positive way: change as transformation, to a healthier and more authentic self. Balk reminds women that the years following menopause represent one-third of a woman’s life. “Life is hardly over when you stop ovulating. Midlife is a time of transformation and that can be entirely positive. We know that women don’t need estrogen to be female or healthy; we can become calm, grounded, wise women without taking estrogen. I believe that there’s a better way to approach it.”
For Balk, that approach is multifaceted. “When I see women with menopausal symptoms, who are suffering, I have options for them: pharmaceuticals, including hormone therapy, anti-depressants and gabapentin for hot flashes and sleep; in addition I have non-medical therapies, such as nutritional supplements, yoga and acupuncture. There is decent evidence that these things can be effective.”
Not everyone is a candidate for hormone therapy, including women with known heart disease, high risk for cancer and certain metabolic diseases.
Balk, who also practices acupuncture, strongly believes that change is possible. “It’s never too late to feel better and improve one’s quality of life. I know that people can change; I also know that it can be very hard. I see many women who are quite distressed, living in crisis, for many reasons: illness, addiction, weight, family, emotional problems. The most distressed are those who are alone – they’re angry, disappointed and they feel isolated. This is not a medical issue, but it affects their health; loneliness is a factor in illness. I try to help them find ways to cope.
“I love my job, in part because I get to see women make it through crisis, change their behavior, and come back looking and feeling better.
“My message to women is that health is how you live your life. It’s not the medications you take, or what doctors you see, or even how you look. The quality of your life depends on a healthy lifestyle, not on health care.”
Now, Dr. Balk’s special brand of midlife care is available to women across a much broader geographic region, with the opening of her office at Magee Specialty Services in the South Hills. “We have all the specialty services here, making it more convenient for women to access the care they need, closer to home, without having to go into Oakland,” she says. “Our location on Bower Hill Road is close to Interstate 79, so that women from not only the South Hills but even the North Hills can get here easily.”

To make an appointment with Dr. Judith Balk, call (412) 641-1441.


“Health and successful aging are not achieved through medication and
doctors. As I see it, health
is composed of four
essential factors: effective coping skills; social support;
a healthy diet, and exercise. It’s never too late to start
creating these in your life.”

-Judith Balk, M.D.

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