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Waterford - Even though he's been retired since Feb. 14, Dr. Stanley Solinsky still gets to enjoy what he considers one of the best parts of his 30-year career as an obstetrician-gynecologist.
Women still stop him at the grocery store or The Recovery Room restaurant in New London to share news of the children he helped deliver, some now grown and with children of their own. One young woman, born on his birthday, sends him a card every year on that day with news of what's going on her life.
"Women always remember their labor and delivery, and you're part of that for the rest of their lives," said Solinsky, 62, who spent most of his career at Shoreline OB GYN in New London and lives near Harkness Memorial State Park. "You see women at their worst during labor, and five minutes after it's over, they're the happiest person in the world. That's the true miracle of obstetrics."
Solinsky figures he's brought more than 4,000 new lives into the world, along with caring for the routine and complex gynecological matters of hundreds of the region's women.
"A while back I delivered the child of a couple and I had delivered both the husband and the wife," said Solinsky. "One of their mothers is still my patient."
Colleague and friend Dr. Peter Auerbach, of Thameside OB/GYN Centre in Groton, said having the same patients over decades and generations is the hallmark of a well-respected and compassionate obstetrician-gynecologist.
"It comes with being an OB and with stability," he said. "If you stay in the same place and take good care of patients, they keep coming back to you."
One of Solinsky's longtime patients, Maria Liguori of East Lyme, cried twice over his retirement - first when she received his announcement letter, and then on her last appointment in January.
"He saw me through some difficult times, and he was always kind and sensitive, and took whatever time you needed, and had a sense of humor," said Liguori, whose adult daughters were also his patients. "I always recommended him, without hesitation."
Janine McDonald of Montville was Solinsky's first patient when he set up in private practice in New London, after residency at Hartford Hospital and serving as a general practitioner at a public clinic in rural West Virginia. She stayed with him through two deliveries, then worked alongside him at L+M, where she is a nursing supervisor, continuing as his patient until his retirement.
"I saw him on his first day in practice, when I was 19," she recalled. "I was very young, and I was having some gynecological issues. He was very calm and reassuring. He's just a great doctor."
Solinsky's work ethic was somewhat old-fashioned by the standards of today, when many obstetricians and other physicians opt for hospital-affiliated practices that allow them to work more regular hours. He and his partners at Shoreline OB GYN kept long hours that included covering many nights plus every second or third weekend.
"We take care of our own patients," he said. "We feel close to our patients, and we feel it's very important to know the patient you're delivering. We were all just brought up that way, to work like crazy. But the hours were finally getting to me, getting calls at 3 a.m. and trying to give out advice. God forbid you should make a mistake."
After medical school at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia and the "amazing experience" of caring for all sorts of patients and conditions at the West Virginia clinic, Solinsky decided to specialize in obstetrics and gynecology. It gave him a chance to get to know patients, while also tapping a range of medical expertise, from surgical skills to an understanding of internal medicine to prenatal care. He's embraced many of the major changes in obstetrics-gynecology over his three decades, from the use of laparoscopic surgery to prenatal genetic testing to the increasing involvement of whole families in the birth experience.
"I joke that it's become a spectator sport," he said. "About six months ago, I did a C-section delivery of a Navy wife whose husband was in Afghanistan. They had an iPad set up in the prep room, so he was right there, watching on Skype. When she went into recovery, he was answering questions for me."
In recent years, though, being an OB-GYN hasn't been as satisfying as it used to be, Solinsky said, mostly because of the way technology has come to interfere with the patient-doctor relationship.
"The one major stressor at the end was electronic medical records," he said. "We spent so much time filling out the perfect document, and you're being scrutinized by the world. It's not like it's a major help to the patient. It's more of an impediment. It depersonalizes medicine to the nth degree. And if you don't jump through all the hoops, you're in trouble."
Since retirement, Solinsky said he's been "de-stressing, actually reading novels," doing some traveling, finding time to exercise and pursuing his hobby of doing research on the computer. He's looking forward to spending more time with his children and grandchildren and may start volunteering his services.
"But I have no interest in a second career," he said.