Meet Dr Shahzadi Harper
What gets you up in the morning?
Opening up my clinic! I love what I do and look forward to getting dressed, putting on my make-up and being ready to help and inspire my patients to navigate their way through the menopause.
Why do you love what you do?
I get a real buzz from seeing women who have been feeling invisible walk out of my room looking taller and feeling empowered because they have been listened to “they’re not going crazy”. It’s even better when I see them comeback for a review and are positively glowing, looking stronger and believing in themselves again. Occasionally it even takes me a few moments to recognise them! Often women will completely lose who they are due to symptoms related to the menopause and they find it such a relief to talk about their issues and realise they are not cracking up.
I hope women can relate to me or some aspect of my life – not only because I’m in my 40’s – but because I’ve been on a journey too with troubled relationships, losing my father, starting and juggling my own business and being a single parent.
Tell us a little about your life journey…
I trained at University College, London having wanted to be a doctor since I was five years old. I distinctly remember being at primary school and having to create a picture of what I wanted to be when I grew up and I painted a doctor! The girl next to me drew a princess which I just couldn’t relate to at all!
I juggled being a single parent with being a doctor and decided for work life balance I would be a GP but yearned to be a specialist in my niche subject. However, motherhood taught me a lot ie being selfless, efficiency, time management and resilience and I wouldn’t change any of that. It also brought me closer to my parents, we all need support and I practiced in Oxford as a GP up until a few years ago looking after patients from diverse cultural and social backgrounds as well as the academics and students of Oxford.
I am not really sure where that innate drive came from as no one in my family has a medical background or even went to university. I’ve just always wanted to help people and was determined to forge my own career path from an early age. I also very much believed in equality of sexes and was determined not to be held back “just because I was a girl”. It wasn’t always easy though because I had a traditional muslim upbringing.
Why have you set up your own menopause clinic?
I became a GP and worked in Oxford for nearly twenty years before setting up my own practice early last year. I started The Harper Clinic as I felt that mid-life women were a forgotten tribe. I’d see many as a GP but always felt they needed more time than I was allowed to give them – their health needs were almost being brushed under the carpet.
It’s not just problems with hormones that women start to see around their 40s, it’s a lot more complicated and their wellbeing and self-esteem are all affected. I wanted to be that doctor that is able to join the dots and help empower women to be the best they can be throughout their 40s and beyond.
What words of wisdom about womanhood would you share with other women?
Believe in yourself! Often us women are our own worst enemies. We all need to have a bit more self-belief and give things a go and remember we can achieve all that men do – and more! If you come up with a creative idea, want to do things differently or take something new on, don’t hold back!
Describe your perfect day?
I’m a bit of a coffee addict so I’d say, firstly I’d get up and make a coffee and then head back to bed for a bit to check my emails, read and catch up on the news. I’d then probably head to the gym and my regular spin class (I often find that I have my best ideas whilst I’m on the exercise bike!) before spending a bit of time getting ready and choosing what to wear whilst listening to Bollywood tunes – I do love nice clothes! I’d then meet friends for lunch before we’d go browsing down Marylebone High Street near my clinic. I love walking and exploring London, it makes me feel alive, I’ve always called London my happy place.
On a sunny day, you can often find me grabbing one of the Santander bikes and cycling around Hyde Park. In the evening, I like to change, dig out my high heels and head for dinner with friends, my partner or my daughter. If I’ve been to the gym, I feel I can indulge in delicious food and I’m always tempted by dessert! However, I’m equally happy with a night in and am very happy, curled up on the sofa with a box set, I’m currently watching the morning show and love both the characters of Jennifer Anniston and Reese Witherspoon . I also watched eight seasons of Game of Thrones in two months and love The Crown!
What are you most likely to be sipping (drink-wise) and where?
I didn’t use to drink but now I do like the occasional glass – usually something chilled and bubbly! I don’t have a favourite bar but I do like trying new places in London and will always pop in somewhere if there’s jazz music playing.
What do you think the landscape will look like for women’s health in five years’ time?
We need to get away from talking just about the menopause, which is when your periods have stopped, and focus on the peri-menopause, the 5-10 years before that when hormones fluctuate and women experience such a huge variety of symptoms. I’d like to see it considered normal to go and chat with a peri-menopause specialist and for all women to have a midlife MOT.
Here at Pelviva we’re huge advocates of talking about the menopause and the common side effect that is bladder leakage. Let’s give these topics the airtime they deserve. #DontIgnoreYourPelvicFloor