Top Doctors 2010
From surgeons to psychiatrists, meet the Hudson Valley’s top 101 medical specialists — as reviewed by their peers and fellow physicians
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Tanya Mays, M.D.
Obstetrics and gynecology
Even though there were several nurses in her family, as a youngster, Dr. Tanya Mays originally thought she wanted to be a lawyer when she grew up. A favorite high school teacher, however, encouraged her to pursue another field. “Science came easily to me, and I liked it, so she urged me to go in that direction,” says Mays, who was born and raised in Brooklyn.
“The teacher would say, ‘Tanya, you’re a natural, why are you fighting this?’ ” Mays laughs. “Because she knew I wanted to go into law. She told me we need more women in science, more in medicine.”
At her mentor’s urging, Mays began to volunteer at a hospital across the street from her high school. “I loved it, even though some of the doctors actually tried to steer me away from a future in medicine. They would say, ‘The hours are so long, you get so overworked,’ which instead made me even more curious about it!”
She decided, indeed, to go into medicine and graduated from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, followed by residency at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in Newark. “With six kids in our family — and I was number four going to college — I took out a lot of student loans and needed to pay them back. So when I finished training, the recruiter suggested I look for a position in an underserved area, which would assist in paying back my loans.”
She wanted to remain relatively near her home, and with her fiancé then working in Manhattan, she opted to take a medical position in the city of Hudson. “I didn’t even know it was in New York State at first,” Mays laughs. She and her future husband were both surprised how rural the region was when they checked it out in 2000. “We said, ‘Wow, this is really out in the country.’ We felt a bit out of place and thought, we’ll only stay a few years.
“Now we love it; we’ll never go back to the city,” she says.
Mays is a board-certified specialist in obstetrics and gynecology. She sees patients at the Women’s Health Center affiliated with Columbia Memorial Hospital in Hudson. “I think I chose the OB/GYN field partly because I always preferred having female doctors myself. My mother is also a very compassionate person, so I got some of that urge to help women from her.” Her practice also includes performing laparoscopic surgery, as well as treating fibroids, ovarian cysts, abnormal and perimenopausal bleeding, and hormonal issues.
Another key part of treating patients is listening to their emotional needs. “They might sometimes not be very sick, per se, but they’re depressed,” she explains. “We’re seeing it more, especially in the past few years; it might be due partly to the economy. A person can tolerate minor aches and pains or a minor medical problem if everything else is good in their life. But constant stress can magnify those ills. Women are pretty much the leaders of their families; they bear most of the burden of raising the kids and doing the housework and juggling schedules. You have to sift through all that when you talk with patients, to help them get their bearings and get back on track. It’s almost like being a psychologist sometimes.”
She loves her close interaction with patients: “I feel like I’m talking with my girlfriends; it may be over a Pap smear instead of a cup of tea, but we chat and get to know each other.” She also enjoys taking part in outreach programs, such as giving talks and hosting programs for medical professionals and the public alike. A topic that’s especially close to her heart: “I try to get the word out to women about the importance of cardiac health.”
When she’s not busy in her office — or with her three children, all under the age of eight — Mays might be found just about anywhere in the world. “I love to travel,” she explains, her favorite destinations being Africa, the Caribbean, and Europe.
She notes an essential part of her philosophy of medicine, which goes back to her medical school days. “I remember one teacher — a doctor — told me that the key to being a good doctor is treating your patients like they’re family; to think, ‘This could be my aunt, my sister, my mother.’ He said that when you look at a patient that way, you’ll always do the best job. You’ll go the extra mile. I’ve always remembered that.”