“I’m losing my mind!” is a comment Dragana Skokovic-Sunjic often hears from women who are dealing with the symptoms of perimenopause (the time leading up to the official declaration of menopause).
By Tom Smiley B.Sc. Phm., Pharm.D.
Photography by Brandon Gray
Perimenopausal symptoms can be unpredictable, so Dragana finds she can reassure her patients by educating them about the changes their bodies are going through and how hormones influence mood, energy, and weight. Of course, this is only a small portion of what Dragana does in her role as a North American Menopause Society Credentialed Menopause Practitioner (NCMP).
Dragana herself, is no stranger to adversity. After receiving her pharmacy degree from the University of Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, in 1988, she taught medicinal chemistry to medical students. In 1992, after four months of surviving surreal and life-altering experiences stemming from the ongoing civil war in the area, she escaped and arrived in Canada. In 1996, Dragana started working for Dell Pharmacy in Hamilton, Ont., where she quickly became known as an expert in the evidence-based use of natural health products, thanks to her university training in botany, medicinal herbs, and pharmacognosy.
After news reports in the early 2000s cited the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study findings that the use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was associated with small but significant increases in risks for issues such as breast cancer and cardiovascular disease, many women stopping using HRT products and sought out “natural” options to treat their menopausal symptoms.
Dragana saw a great need for helping women deal with these challenging quality-of-life issues, and she became a NCMP in 2003. For the past 16 years, she has kept up to date with the most recent evidence so she can recommend individualized, optimal solutions for her patients. “I am not afraid to think outside the box, taking into consideration the patient’s preferences, previous experiences, and desired outcomes,” she says.
Dragana has never had an issue with charging for her professional services. Although some patients may initially be skeptical, her network of advocates—which includes other health professionals, pharmacy staff, and, most importantly, former patients—spreads the word about the value of her services. Patients seen for private consultations pay for initial appointments and for follow-up, if necessary. They receive an official receipt to submit to their private insurance plan, if eligible.
“I find great satisfaction in helping women make the link between the effects of stress on the body’s physiology and biochemistry and, ultimately, the way they feel,” she says. “I find that women who better understand the effects of the daily demands and stress on their overall health, present symptoms, and future risks feel much more in control.”
Women’s health is a very challenging yet rewarding area of patient care, and Dragana gets great personal satisfaction from the feedback she receives from her clients.