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Meet Our Advocates: Dr. Carley Zeal

What are your gender pronouns?

Where are you from?

What’s your specialty or area of expertise?
OB/GYN – Family Planning

What first inspired you to become a doctor?
I was one of those kids that always wanted to be a doctor, mostly without really realizing why. As I went through school, I realized that it was a good fit for me, combining my affinity for science and evidence with my desire for a more human component to my work. I always felt as though I could not be fulfilled in a job if I didn’t feel like I was contributing positively to somebody else’s life. Medicine was a good way for me to feel like my daily life provided a contribution to somebody outside myself.

What story about one of your patients most sticks with you?
A story that sticks out right now is one of a patient who had an abortion for fetal anomalies. She was referred to us with a desired pregnancy complicated by lethal fetal anomalies. The reason she stands out is that she had a very authentic reaction at the end of her procedure that was heartbreaking. She had an uncomplicated abortion, and as she was waking from anesthesia, she looked me in the eyes and asked a couple of questions, “Is it all done? Am I pregnant anymore?” I reassured her that everything was done, she was safe, and there were no complications. Then I had to tell her that she was no longer pregnant. She immediately hugged me and cried.

It just illustrated the pain that some of our patients experience losing their pregnancies, for so many reasons, regardless of the planning of the pregnancy. These women experience heartbreaking loss, and it breaks my heart that instead of society offering them any comfort, mainstream media paints them as irresponsible and morally corrupt.

What current policy issue especially motivates you to be an advocate?
There are so many injustices in health care right now that it is difficult to pick one issue. I have always been passionate about treating others as I would like to be treated, and our current system has an alarming amount of disparities in access and quality of care. As an abortion provider, I am most vocal regarding access to women’s reproductive health care, because it most impacts my patients on a daily basis. That being said, I recognize that reproductive health is a relatively small piece of my patients’ lives, and I am working to embrace a larger scope to my work and be more involved in other issues that affect my patients.

Who is your social justice hero?
I really respect and look up to many of the nationally recognized social justice activists. However, I think my social justice hero is my mentor, Dr. Colleen McNicholas (also a Physicians for Reproductive Health Fellow). I am often in awe of the things she is able to accomplish, always with an eye toward her overarching goal of social justice. I admire the way she commits herself to our local community, playing to her strengths as an abortion and family planning provider, as well as an advocate and leader.

Our Meet Our Advocates series showcases the talents and passion of one of our doctors and finds out, in their own words, what inspires them to be physician-advocates. Carley Zeal, MD is in our current Leadership Training Academy class. Dr. Zeal practices obstetrics and gynecology in Missouri.

Read more interviews from the Meet Our Advocates series.