Sanja Kostov dispels medical misinformation and improves labour and delivery care
Job Title: Family Physician and Primary Care Obstetrician, Royal Alexandra Hospital, Assistant Professor, University of Alberta
When Sanja Kostov’s mom was pregnant with her at the age of 28, she was labelled as having a geriatric, high-risk pregnancy in the former Yugoslavia. Today, Kostov is a family physician and an assistant professor with the University of Alberta who’s passionate about gender and reproductive health — areas she says are rife with stigma and misinformation, like the kind her mother faced for having children late. Nowadays, her mother would never be considered high risk, but similar stigmas remain.
When Kostov was five years old her family moved to Edmonton so her dad could do a PhD in biomedical engineering. The plan was always to return home. But the civil war changed things and they remained with Kostov’s dad working at the U of A until he developed a rare form of leukemia and eventually died. It was a devastating time.
Two years after his death, Kostov applied to enter the same department at the U of A as her dad without realizing the connection. While their careers are very different — her dad worked on machine learning (back in 1998, before it was mainstream) for spinal injuries — they have both, through their work, changed lives.
As an advocate for inclusive reproductive and sexual health, Kostov resurrected a session in which medical students meet with volunteers from the 2SLGBTQIA+ community to learn of their lived experiences. She’s led a study to determine how to best support residents in their first trimesters of pregnancy. She’s working on a project to increase low breastfeeding rates in northern Alberta. And she’s the program director of a new residency program she started to further prepare family physicians to do labour and delivery care.
“I think I very much believe in fairness and equity,” says Kostov. “I think that’s what medicine needs to be able do: champion equitable, culturally competent care.”