Kellie Stecher is an OBGYN at M Health Fairview Women’s Center in Edina and Eden Prairie. She has won the Minneapolis/St. Paul Magazine’s Top Doctor’s Rising Star award for the last three years.
Her work has made her an invaluable contributor to both local and national publications. She’s provided content for local news channels and makes regular appearances appears Gynocast, a podcast focusing on women’s health.
Her focus is on the safety of patients and staff and community education. Most recently, she’s become involved with TimesUp Healthcare – an organization fights to ensure work environments are safe for all colleagues.
Kellie has two children, Addison 5 and Joseph 7. She grew up in Wisconsin and transplanted to Minnesota to be near extended family. She’s a proud member alumnus of St. Mary’s University. She plays piano, alto saxophone, and loves jazz. She used to row crew and has recently rediscovered that passion with her rowing simulator.
Kellie fights tirelessly for what’s right and for people who don’t have a voice. She’s made her OBGYN practice a supportive and non-judgmental environment. Her loud, full-hearted laugh is exemplary of an authenticity that’s present in everything she does and brings happiness to every patient she sees.
Kellie, can you start off by telling us about yourself and why you chose the medical profession?
I grew up in Appleton, or Grand Chute, Wisconsin. I was lucky enough to have two siblings, both younger. I grew up in a community that was small and really self contained at the time. I realized early on I needed to be my own back up plan in life. When I was 9 and my siblings were 7 and 5, we were supposed to be brought to the Appleton Foxes Training Camp for kids, the minor league baseball team in the area. Our parents were unable to be home to bring us. I used the yellow pages, found Appleton taxi companies, got an estimate of cost, found the money around the house, cushions, my savings etc., and called us a taxi to get us to camp. I wasn’t going to let my siblings down, and wanted to show them that I would do anything I needed to do to get them where they needed to go. This is really how I’ve lived my life. My need to keep commitments, persist, and help others are driving forces why I went into medicine. I want my patients to have a physician that will move heaven and earth to get them where they need to go.
Can you tell us what drives you to be as passionate as you are being a healthcare provider?
In being a physician I am able to be a part of women’s lives at their best and worst moments. I am so thankful to be given the honor of taking care of patients. I am thankful that they trust me and let me help them when they are their most vulnerable. I try to live my life with this in mind; “Be a good human being, a warm hearted, affectionate person. That is my fundamental belief” Dalai Lama.
Tell us a little bit about the podcast, Gynocast that you are involved with.
The Gynocast was created by Twila Dang who created Matriarch Digital Media. She has really stepped into a roll of empowering women. Dr. Eric Heegaard and her to the podcast primarily and then have contributors. At this moment it has kind of been put on hold due to the pandemic. It’s an awesome platform to educate patients and the community of a variety of issues that are rampant nationally. I’m hoping to work with them to address all areas of women’s healthcare needs, mental health, access to healthcare, mortality/morbidity disparities, and many more issues that should be concerning to all of us.
What’s the one or two accomplishments that you’re proud of?
I was the first girl to hit an out of the park home run for Appleton North High School. I was able to keep both of my kids alive through their infancy. When my daughter was a newborn I ended up donating milk and was able to provide milk for a her, a set of twins, an adopted baby, and helped supplement for a premature baby as well. It was really cool to be able to provide them with something they needed that they couldn’t do. I love seeing them all grow and its amazing that I got to be a part of their lives at such an amazing and important time.
What advice do you have for other up-and-coming leader medical professionals?
I have always believed in servant leadership. The best way to lead people is to walk beside them. I work hard every day with a singular focus. That focus is to make life better for anyone who relies on me in some way. I never expect people to do things I wouldn’t do. I work hard to develop teams and use those teams to empower all the members involved. In my opinion, there is no one person who should be held up as a god figure in medicine or in life. Each person is valuable and sees different elements of the big picture, this will allow all of us to reach our goals. “To love someone is to show to them their beauty, their worth and their importance.” Jean Vanier.
Are you active on social media professionally? If so, what platforms work best for engaging your followers?
I am currently active on facebook. I have a professional page, Kellie Stecher MD. I actually think it’s very important for patients to have access to their physicians. I think the more educated they are about you and how you work, the better the match between physician and patient.
What’s the major difference between being an OB/GYN physician and your other passion as a mom, educator, author, podcaster? (any one of these) Any comparison?
I really think all my roles are deeply interconnected and serve to make me better at each job I’m involved with. When I was 14 my pediatrician referred me to University of Wisconsin Endocrinology. I didn’t really understand why at the time. My Dad, who I never talked to at that time, and I suffered through a very long 2.5 hour car ride to the University. I went back for labs and then sat in an exam room along, waiting for a physician to walk in. I remember the direction of the bed, the poster on the wall, the temperature outside. Sadly, I have close to a photographic memory, so anything remotely painful is etched in my brain.
When he walked in he introduced himself, shook my hand, asked about my acne, asked about my weight, said I needed to lose 10-20 lbs, pulled my shirt up to look if I had chest hair. He never explained his thinking, what was going on, what I was being diagnosed with. He just wrote on a pad of paper. He stopped, sighed, and told me I have PCOS, polycystic ovarian syndrome. Likely I would have a hard time getting pregnant if I could get pregnant. I would probably end up with diabetes and heart disease because of my increased risk second to PCOS. He said I could start medication, may help with the acne, but wouldn’t help my fertility. He was in the room with me less than 10 minutes. I had a “diagnosis,” I needed to lose 10 pounds, and might not ever get pregnant. That’s the messaging I heard.
My Dad who was in the waiting room of course asked what the situation was, as I tried to explain to him, I don’t think he knew what to say. This entire event left an indelible mark on me. I immediately started thinking about everything he did wrong. How I would do this differently, what I would say, I would make sure they knew what I was talking about, that they understood, what the next steps were, and that they weren’t doing this alone.
Who was your biggest influencer?
This is such an interesting question, I honestly think some of the biggest influencers I have had were negative, and it led me to incorporate them in my life as an illustration of how I don’t want to be. I remember thinking things along the lines of; nope I am never going to do that, I will never say that, I will never be part of that. This led to me growing up pretty quickly, but really made me value the relationships I have today, and the people that stand by me no matter what. Negative influencers can make you a better person and appreciate what you have.
My best influencers are my Grandma and Grandpa Lease. They had an amazing marriage that was a partnership and you knew they loved each other. This is something I really wanted to have in my life. They had this constant support for each other. I think so many people don’t look for true partnerships in their romantic relationships and that really handicaps them. You really need someone who is your intellectual and emotional equivalent. My grandfather was the definition of a good person. He was a Minister, he devoted his life to taking care of his congregation. He sacrificed so much of himself to be the guiding light for his church. I really try to practice medicine like he led his church. I want to be there for my patients, and make them my priority.
What is the most challenging part of your work as a physician?
The hardest part is fighting with incorrect information that exists in the world. Everyone assumes they know the good, the bad and the ugly based off a random blog someone put up online. However, it is so important for people to have open and honest dialogues with their physicians. I really just want my patients to have accurate and complete information before making healthcare or life changing decisions.
What do you have your sights set on next?
For this year I am working on several things in the area of gender equity and providing safe work environments for women. Medicine is a field that has a long way to go in terms of dealing with harassment in the workplace and unsafe power dynamics. The top three things on my agenda:
1. Creating a support group where professional women can talk about their experiences in a safe, confidential and supportive atmosphere. Most women in medicine report being a part of an unhealthy work culture at some point. Burn out is a huge issue in healthcare, many women also report this is tied to the power structures that exist.
2. Working with the medical school and residency programs to develop some sort of orientation for new colleagues starting that address where to go and what to do if they are in a situation where someone with power over them is propositioning them, threatening them, or they’ve developed an inappropriate relationship and need help. No one should worry about career retaliation in these situations and I want to make sure that young physicians are aware of what they can do and can find supportive people.
3. Develop a committee to look at allegations in a confidential, safe and unbiased fashion. Again, most women don’t come forward with concerns because they are afraid of job/career ramifications. There are multiple articles that have been published lately, that show how well known academic institutions have failed at protecting women from adverse career consequences when reporting harassment. In some cases the woman was asked to take time off or change rotation schedules, to accommodate a man who had been using power over them. This has to stop and having the ability to dig into these cases and create a plan to help those involved is paramount to success and health of an organization.
What is a day in your life like?
Each day is different. I am typically on call for 24 hours one day a week, one surgery day, three days of clinic. With the pandemic the schedules have changed significantly. We are doing a lot more telemedicine instead of going into clinic each day. We are hoping to make more steps toward normalcy in July. In any given day I could be in clinic, answering 20-40 messages, seeing 24-32 patients, delivering 1-6 babies, and potentially a surgery.
Do you have any hobbies?
Writing has become a hobby and a passion lately. I think people forget how much power words have. Words, in fact, can either build someone up or tear them apart. It’s a big responsibility and I try to use writing to educate and empower people. I love Jazz music. When I was 21, I was proposed to at The Dakota Jazz club in Minneapolis. In the non-COVID world I loved going there. I have been getting back into rowing/crew, and more recently golf. I think it’s important for you to find things you like that you can incorporate your friends into, it makes everything more fun.
What makes you smile?
Seeing my kids happy.
What are you never without?
A hair band. I always start my day with my hair down. You never know when an emergency, delivery or surgery will need to happen. I am naked without my hair band.
What scares you?
Not being able to leave a mark. When I die, I want the world to be better in some way, or I will feel like I have wasted my life.
What’s your favorite vacation spot?
Ireland, it’s beautiful, breathtaking, amazing place. It’s vibrant and fun in every way possible. I love Irish music. I actually took Irish Ceili dancing in college with a friend. My sister and I took a trip to Ireland March 2018 and I hope we can go back.
List any other work, published articles, interviews or accomplishments:
ACOG: The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Minnesota Doctors for Health Equity
Androgen Excess and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Society
Minneapolis St. Paul Magazine’s Top Doctor’s Rising Star: 2018, 2019, 2020
Women in Medicine Top Obstetrician-Gynecologist 2020
Coming June 30: Minnesota Medicine: Justice in a Pandemic
SliNK Magazine: Wellness Corner: Ask a gynaecologist… (Feature Issue 26)
Self Magazine: https://www.self.com/story/pregnant-and-coronavirus Pioneer Press:
Kellie Stecher: Extra risk and extra concerns, but we’re figuring out how to deliver care — and babies — safelyRecent Star Tribune: https://www.startribune.com/these-minn-health-care-heroes-are-fighting-on-the-front-lines-against-covid-19/569735921/
Recent Kare 11: https://www.kare11.com/article/news/health/coronavirus/pregnant-mother-nearing-delivery-worries-about-covid-19-exposure-after-parents-test-positive/89-16abb912-5f56-45f7-8a09-a4aee62bdbd5