July 6, 2023
Physician passionate about helping women
Dr. Shafeena Premji, MD, CCFP, NCMP, is passionate about helping women through the unique health issues they face throughout their life.
Premji is a clinician specializing in women’s health. She works with women at all stages of their life, helping them through pregnancy and delivery, menopause and aging. She has a particular interest in helping women through menopause, which can be a difficult time.
As women near menopause, they begin to experience fluctuations in estrogen levels, and following menopause, produce less estrogen and progesterone. This causes symptoms related to menopause and may increase the risk for cardiovascular diseases including heart failure, according to the American Heart Association.
In 2022 the Menopause Foundation of Canada Landmark Report showed more than 95 per cent of women experience symptoms related to menopause, such as hot flashes, cognitive changes, sexual dysfunction, sleep disturbances and mood swings. These changes can have a big impact on a person’s quality of life, work productivity, social relationships and overall health.
Premji is one of just a handful of Calgary physicians specializing in this area and is a North American Menopause Society Certified Menopause Practitioner (NCMP) with expertise in counselling and therapy for all aspects of menopausal health including hormone therapy options. Her experience in this area makes her a valued member of the Libin Cardiovascular Institute. She feels privileged to offer guidance to her patients throughout the different stages of their lives.
“I love the relationships that forms as I work with my patients to prepare them for pregnancy and childbirth, help them as they transition back into the workforce as young moms, and as they age and enter peri-menopause and menopause,” says Premji. “Being able to empower women through these stages is fulfilling.”
Premji grew up in Calgary and first expressed a desire to be a doctor when she was a preteen. That’s when Premji experienced a painful skin condition that went undiagnosed for several months. In the family’s quest for an answer, Premji visited numerous physicians and specialists before being diagnosed by a pediatric emergency physician at the Alberta Children’s Hospital.
“That doctor changed my life,” says Premji, adding he spent at least an hour with Premji and her family, searching medical books to finally give her a diagnosis of impetigo, which was treated with a round of antibiotics. “His excellent care was what triggered my desire to pursue medicine. I wanted to help others just like he helped me.”
Premji never strayed from that course.
She earned a BSc with distinction from the University of Calgary before completing her Master’s in Health Administration at the University of British Columbia. She returned to Calgary for medical school, earning her degree in 2010.
Premji completed her residency in Family Medicine and a Women’s Health Fellowship at Queen’s University in 2012 and 2013, respectively. It was a chance encounter with Dr. Elaine Jolly, then the president of the Canadian Menopause Society, that cemented Premji’s path of specializing in menopausal care.
“Dr. Jolly opened my eyes to the whole field of menopause care, which I hadn’t realized was even a concern, as it really wasn’t addressed during medical training,” says Premji. “She was literally a walking menopause encyclopedia and showed me that this is an area that is very underserved.”
Under Jolly’s mentorship, Premji pursued her certification in menopause treatment, and learned a great deal about this stage of a woman’s life, which begins on average at age 51.
Ninety-five per cent of women are impacted by symptoms like cognitive and sleep disturbances, hot flashes and night sweats, and even heart palpitations. These symptoms can be debilitating and may last up to 10 years. They can impact a woman’s ability to work and her quality of life.
As Premji learned that some women have a very difficult time during menopause, she became knowledgeable about how to help women with menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) and through lifestyle changes. She started accepting an ever-increasing number of referrals for women seeking help for their symptoms.
Over the years, Premji’s menopause clinic has grown, and she continues to gain insight about how menopause can impact individuals.
“The problem is, no one talks about what happens to women around the age of 50,” says Premji. “My patients have shared that they often feel unheard and unsupported during menopause and peri-menopause. I really want my colleagues to know that educating and empowering women is a very important part of caring for women through this transition.”
Premji also wants women to know that there are safe, approved therapies that can help if they are suffering with menopause symptoms. There are also other ways individuals can empower themselves.
“It’s important as women enter their 40s that they make healthy lifestyle choices, such as stopping smoking, eating healthy and exercising, so they are as healthy as possible entering menopause,” she says. “This will help them with their symptoms and set them up for healthy aging moving forward.”
Premji is the founder and director of two family-practice Calgary clinics: Mahogany Medical Clinic and The Village Medical. She is board director for the Canadian Menopause Society and sits on the Medical Advisory Board of the Menopause Foundation of Canada. She is an associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the Cumming School of Medicine and member of the Libin Cardiovascular Institute.
She is open to assisting researchers interested in learning more about menopause.