GRAND RAPIDS, Mich — As we wrap up Women’s History month, FOX 17 is highlighting a newer face at Spectrum Health.
Dr. Cheryl Wolfe MD is the Vice President and Department Chief of Women’s Health at Spectrum Health, who’s especially passionate about addressing racial disparities in women’s healthcare.
After spending her entire medical career as an OBGYN in the Chicago area, Dr. Wolfe is excited to take on her new role.
Dr. Wolfe said, “We know historically women in a lot of areas just have completely different symptoms and we have a completely different needs, So that’s just how it is, that’s a fact of life so we need to address that.”
She said she moved to West Michigan and Spectrum Health in-part because of the health system's new Women’s Wellness Center that helps address issues they may not always want to talk about.
“Those are delicate topics, but we have experts at our Women’s Wellness Center who are trained specifically to address those issues,” Dr. Wolfe explained.
She is especially focused on helping women of color feel heard and taken care of.
She said, “You just want to listen. Sometimes I think women of color – and I am an African-American woman - sometimes people don’t hear you. Sometimes you say ‘I am really in trouble, I don’t feel right, I don’t feel well,’ and the way I may manifest a particular illness or symptoms may not be the way everyone else does. I think the key is, you gotta listen.”
Dr. Wolfe’s career has been an impressive one: on top of her medical degree, she also earned her MBA in the Business of Medicine and spent time at Mercy Health Chicago and Rush University.
She said, “We know that we have to work harder. More doors are not as open to us as a fact of life and sometimes we have to work even harder.”
That’s why she encourages other women in leadership positions to serve as mentors.
“I feel it’s a responsibility to really help your, especially for women, really help your female counterparts. Bring them up, lift them up, bring them up behind you,” said Dr. Wolfe.
Mentorship and leadership was something she had to seek out herself years ago.
“I found women who were in my profession, I sought that out, I was not afraid to say ‘Hey, don’t really know you, but I like your style," Dr. Wolfe said.
Now, as a female Vice President in the largest healthcare system in West Michigan, she loves seeing other women have the same success across industries.
“You just do the silent happy dance, you do the little cheer, and say ‘Yeah you go girl, look at that.”
Dr. Wolfe is excited about looking for ways to incorporate unconscious bias training for providers at Spectrum Health and talking to women in the community to see how they can have a better healthcare experience.