A trailblazing Manhattan doctor specializing in sexual dysfunction in women is determined to get her patients talking about what ails them.
“I’ve spoken to patients about their sex lives ranging from teenagers to people in their 90s,” said Dr. Barbara Chubak, a urologist at Mount Sinai Hospital who specializes in women’s sexual dysfunction. “What I wish more women knew was that they’re normal down there.”
But a scientific blindspot around female sexuality has left the door wide open for “wellness gurus” like Goop’s Gwyneth Paltrow to dish out questionable medical advice to women who have nowhere else to turn, Chubak, 37, believes.
“Low libido, erectile dysfunction, pain with intercourse, difficulty with orgasm,” she said, rattling off some of the most common problems male and female patients bring to her.
A few years ago, Dr. Ash Tewari, the head of urology at Mount Sinai, decided it was time to expand the department — which at that time, had only one female urologist — to better reflect the patients it was serving.
“You look at the average population,” he said. “How do they feel coming to a male urologist for everything? I realized they might get shy.”
Today, four of the 34 full-time faculty members in the department are women, and Chubak’s boss says she’s brought a lot to the table.
“She’s upfront in talking about things,” he said. “She’s not shy in discussing the topics that are under-discussed.”
Chubak’s Long Island upbringing in an Orthodox Jewish family might not seem like the best preparation for a career where she aims to loosen patients’ inhibitions around sexuality.
But she disagrees.
“As religions go, Judaism is fairly sex-positive. The very first mitzvah, the first commandment in the Jewish Bible, is ‘Peru U’revu’ — be fruitful and multiply,” she happily notes.
“You’re supposed to have sex on Friday night to celebrate the Sabbath. On the rare days, like Yom Kippur and Tisha B’Av, you’re supposed to limit your joys — that’s the only context in which sexual relations are explicitly disallowed.”
The high-spirited doctor hopes more-conservative patients may feel comfortable confiding in her when they learn of her upbringing and realize they can relate to each other.
“Orthodox Judaism, like any cultural subset and religious subset, has its rules and regulations,” she said. “I grew up with it.”
She attended an open-minded rabbi’s sex-ed class as a teen studying at Ramaz Upper School on the Upper East Side.
“We talked about abortion, we talked about birth control,” she said. “That’s probably where I got my ‘let’s talk it out’ attitude about sexuality from.”
Chubak’s latest research, published January in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, evaluates the effectiveness of traditional Chinese medicine on sexual dysfunction — like yoga, acupuncture and meditation. She found there to be positive results when combined with Western medicine but believes more study needs to be done regarding its efficiency for women specifically.
“It’s an exciting field to work in,” she said. “There’s so much to learn about — and the opportunity to help with a problem that is very important in the day-to-day lives, relationships, and personal identities of a lot of people.”