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Meet Dr. Heather Stefaniak, urological surgeon

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Dr. Heather Stefaniak and family

Heather Stefaniak is a mom, a wife, animal lover and doctor. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

When she’s not devoting herself to her patients, you can find her crafting, gardening, canning with her parents during harvest season, running her kids to school and after-school sports and activities or taking her dog on long walks.

Stefaniak is a urological surgeon with Aurora BayCare Urological Surgeons. It’s a career path she almost didn’t travel.

Dr. Heather Stefaniak and her son

“I thought I was going to go into pediatrics,” she says. “You don’t really get a lot of exposure to urology as a medical student early on. So, I really liked kids and thought about pediatrics.”

Then she was introduced to urological surgery while at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

“When I designed my third-year rotations, I wanted to do pediatrics in the middle of the year. So, I started with surgery to get it over with because I thought it was going to be the hardest, but I immediately was like, ‘This is awesome.’”

After a job-shadowing experience, courtesy of a friend’s father, a urologist, Stefaniak’s career was headed in a new direction.

“I shadowed him on break. We did office in the morning and then we went to the operating room. A scope of a urologist practice is so varied: We see men and women, young and old, we do a wide variety of surgeries including open, laparoscopic, robotics and endoscopic procedures. We then go to the office and can mix patient care with office-based procedures. Urology is very unique.”

Stefaniak, a Milwaukee native, completed her residency at the University of North Carolina Hospital. There she trained to perform robotic-assisted surgery, now her surgical specialty.

She recently achieved high-level training and experience with UroLift, a minimally-invasive treatment to aid men with enlarged prostate. She is one of 134 urologists in the nation to have earned UroLift Center of Excellence recognition. She and two others are the only females in the country with Center of Excellence in Urolift recognition.

Urology was the perfect medical specialty for Stefaniak.

Dr. Heather Stefaniak and son as astronauts

“I think it was a good combination of procedural, surgical and still being able to see patients over many years,” she says. “I liked the continuity of care. We see people for many years, so that was really appealing to me. There are intimate things we talk about with patients and I enjoy helping patients feel comfortable and making a connection with them.”

Stefaniak has been with Aurora BayCare Urological Surgeons for 11 years and is just one of two female urologists on the staff.

In 2018, fewer than 10 percent of urologists in the United States were female, according to the American Urological Association.

Stefaniak offers this advice for her current and future patients: “Trust your gut and also stand-up for yourself as you are the captain of your ship – mentally and physically. If you feel like something’s not right in your body, tell somebody about it. Be your own healthcare advocate.”

Published: Wednesday, February 5, 2020