She competed in beauty pageants — and won several — to earn scholarship money to pay for medical school. Today, Dr. Angela Pratt heads the OB-GYN department at Kapiolani Medical Center and is performing breakthrough work in women’s health
Angela Pratt, M.D., is a beautiful person, literally and figuratively. She is a title-holder as Miss Honolulu 1986 and Mrs. Hawaii USA 1992. Beauty pageant scholarships funded her aspirations to be a doctor.
Pratt is the first woman and first Native Hawaiian to head the obstetrics and gynecology department at Kapiolani Medical Center. She is a leader in women’s health in our state and a pioneer in bringing advanced techniques in cosmetic gynecology to the Islands.
Her many community service involvements make her an influential advocate for social and humanistic causes.
To be this accomplished an individual is indeed beautiful.
But we want to see beyond what’s reflected in the mirror. What we find is a champion for a life force called self-confidence.
You can’t buy it. You can’t have it implanted. Yet it is universally sought as an elixir to living well. Her story is a prescription for its effects.
Beauty radiating from personal confidence is the premise that drives the success of Pratt’s medical practice. Her dedication to the quality of women’s health in Hawaii has brought new technology and treatments to obstetrics and gynecological care.
“Healthy is the new sexy,” she declares.
For aging baby boomers experiencing post-menopausal symptoms and risks, it is a liberating rallying cry.
“The modern woman wants to be the best that she can be,” Pratt says. “She is the family caregiver, nurturer and advocate for quality of life. If she has low self-esteem, her attitude and relationships suffer.”
This is not a medical platitude.
Pratt’s work with young girls in pageants as well as adults going through reproductive and menopausal life stages is evidence-based experience.
Her own family values, based on strong maternal instincts, can’t be denied.
Although of aristocratic lineage — her great-great-grandmother was a Hawaiian princess — Pratt’s own upbringing was quite humble. The daughter of a Native Hawaiian woodcraftsman (late Anthony “Tony” Pratt) and Southern-born mother (Barbara H. Pratt, a Realtor and former bartender at Pearl City Tavern’s Monkey Bar), there were few luxuries and advantages for their family of six children.
“My brothers and I didn’t have much, but we were told that what we do in this world to help others will come back a million times over,” she says.
Pratt attended Kamehameha School and majored in business and biology at University of Puget Sound in Washington. She eventually graduated pre-med and returned to Oahu.
As a flight attendant for Hawaiian Airlines, she traveled the Pacific, where she witnessed the poor state of health and living conditions of indigenous communities. It was a journey to destiny.
“When I saw the lack of health care for the Polynesians, I said to myself, ‘You need to do something. You need to stand up.’ It wasn’t only for my lineage, but for all native people,” she once told a Kauai publication.
“I wanted to blend the western way of medicine with the eastern ways of nontraditional healing,” Pratt says.
She completed her studies at the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine as part of its ‘Imi Ho‘ola post-baccalaureate program for Native Hawaiian students. She now is clinical assistant professor at the school.
“I spent my residency at medically underserved areas such as Nanakuli, Kalihi-Palama and Waipahu,” she says. “It really grounded me and empowered me to strive for my goals.
“To finance my education, I entered pageants to earn scholarships,” Pratt recalls.
“When asked about my goals, I was very specific. I wanted to be a physician practicing women’s health and elevating the care of women in our state.”
She has never veered from that course, and today is living her dream as a leading practitioner and pioneer of advanced obstetrics and gynecology in Hawaii.
This has brought her in touch with the most intimate and traditionally hush-hush aspects of female health issues. From the menstrual cycle to menopause, there are significant physiological changes that happen in the natural maturing process.
“As women age, they experience medical issues such as urinary, vaginal and sexual dysfunction, along with the aging of the vagina and vulva that can negatively impact their lives,” Pratt explains.
For that reason, she founded Hawaii Beauty and Wellness Center with Dr. Benton Chun, an authority on laparoscopic (minimally invasive, small incision) surgery and infertility.
The center recently introduced a revolutionary laser treatment to treat vaginal dryness and atrophy that plagues menopausal women.
“A beautiful woman is someone who is confident in herself,” Pratt says. “She is comfortable with her body and nurtures herself through the aging process.
“If a female is uncomfortable with parts of her anatomy, in the past we were embarrassed to talk about it,” she reflects. “Women suffer in silence.”
But it’s a whole new day, she declares.
The catalyst for that, she suggests, is advances in men’s health to treat impotence and erectile dysfunction. Viagra levels the playing field for women to address sexual desire and intimacy impairment issues.
Suddenly, in examination rooms across the nation, women are being candid with their doctors about improvements needed to their sexual organs.
Childbirth, for instance, can be the cause of stretching of the pelvic muscles. Breast cancer survivors have special considerations regarding use of hormone therapy.
“Two in five menopausal women suffer from severe vaginal atrophy,” Pratt points out. “What we’ve learned in the last five years is that the tissue changes and previously known short-term or temporary solutions such as lubricants or hormone therapy are not efficient.”
Pratt’s surgical skill and expertise in cosmetic gynecology come at the mentorship of Dr. Red Alinsod, founder of renowned Alinsod Institute for Aesthetic Vaginal Surgery. Pratt is the only female cosmetic gynecologist in Honolulu and one of the few select surgeons in the nation who has completed this extensive training.
“Women are timid about revealing these issues, but when marital and other close relationships are being affected, honesty is the best policy,” she contends.
“That also speaks to the medical profession that must provide better training for integrated programs and services across a patient’s lifespan,” she advocates.
The 53-year-old mother of a college-age daughter (Micaela Waiali‘i Po‘omaihealani) knows that the dynamics of patients’ needs and provider services will continue to evolve through the generations. She’s delivered enough babies and followed their lives to adulthood to know that.
It’s this dynamic that continues to motivate Pratt and her colleagues to seek the best solutions for relieving pain, changing women’s outlook on life through wellness and keeping relationships bonded.
She likes being at the fore-front of shaping women’s care agendas, recognizing the social and economic impact of their lives.
If that makes her a medical feminist, so be it. Pink goes well with a white coat.