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Dr. Richard Boroditsky receiving Queen's Diamond Jubilee

photo by Rhonda Spivak


by Rhonda Spivak, April 29, 2014

Mazel Tov to  Dr. Richard Boroditsky, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Reproductive Sciences  University of Manitoba and the medical director of the interdisciplinary  Mature Women's Centre at the Victoria General Hospital, who was recently awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. The award was presented by The Honourable Janis G. Johnson in recognition of Dr. Boroditsky’s outstanding contributions to our community and our country. 


As Richard has previously told the Winnipeg Jewish Review in regards to his work, "My grandson says my zaida is a vaginacologist."


Richard began his career in women’s health in the early 1970's at a time when sexual health was still a taboo subject. He started with speaking engagements on behalf of Planned Parenthood and  joined the first family planning program in Manitoba at the Women’s Hospital in the  Health Sciences Centre, started by his professor and mentor Dr. M. Roulston. He went on to become President of Planned Parenthood Manitoba, and in this role he promoted sexuality, education in schools and encouraged physicians in the community to provide sexual health education.


When asked by the WJR who gave him his first sex talk, Richard said "My mother [Elsie Boroditsky nee: Lipkin who passed away due to cancer at the young age of 55]. But there was no talk.  She put a book on my bed called "The Stork Didn't Bring You."


"Most of the sex education I received was "informal" education at Camp Massad," Boroditsky, who is a former President of Camp Massad, revealed during the telephone interview when he was sitting in his hot tub at his home in Pelican Beach, Gimli.


"At Massad, we did a lot of talking and we had labs," he added.  (On a side note, Boroditsky recalls that when he was President of Camp Massad, there was an initiative by the Jewish Federation to merge Camp Massad with B'nai Brith Camp on Towne Island in his term, but Massad refused. "It would have been the end of Massad," Boroditsky says.)


Richard recalls that "I always wanted to be a surgeon" but as one of his last choices when looking for a summer job as a  medical student he got assigned to "labour and delivery," and one thing led to another.


In a talk he gave to a CJA Women's Philanthropy event a couple of years ago,  Boroditsky noted that older textbooks used to present the notion of  masturbation in negative and detrimental  ways [it was referred to as ‘onanism’], although it is a completely natural sexual behavior. It can be an alternative to coitus in older couples that are unable or unwilling to have intercourse and it can also be a release for sexual tension and may lead to a decrease in high risk sexual behavior and sexual aggression in young people.


“Prepubertal children, although they don’t have a sex drive per se, are also involved in sexual pleasure,” Boroditsky said.


Boroditsky told a joke about a young boy who was pleasuring himself in a sand box and was told by his parent, “you keep that up young man and you’ll go blind. The child responded, ‘O.K. can I do it until I need glasses.’


Boroditsky, who has given many sex talks at schools says that at puberty there is ‘a bombardment of hormones—and everything tells youth ‘‘to do it.’ However, he said, males and females think differently. ‘Girls give sex to obtain love and boys give love to obtain sex.’ They have different agendas which can lead to conflict , an increase in high risk sexual behavior as well as physical ,emotional and sexual abuse.


"When a boy uses a line ‘I can’t stop” a girl ought to respond “I hear your mother coming.” He will stop on a dime," Boroditsky has joked.


When he has gone to speak at schools and talks to adolescents, Boroditsky tells students that until they are 18 years old don’t have intercourse, as, it is a health risk. However, he then says if you don’t listen to me “Use condoms and the [birth control] pill.” He promotes abstinence from intercourse and if you are engaging in sexual behaviour,  be involved in non coital pleasuring “ Orgasm without Organisms.”


In the 1980's, Dr. Boroditsky developed the minimally invasive surgical gynecology program at the Women’s Hospital, Health Sciences Centre through the University of Manitoba’s Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences. He chaired the minimally invasive surgery gynecology committee and became head of the day surgery program. Dr. Boroditsky was instrumental in converting half of all three to five day surgeries into minimally invasive day surgical procedures. He also chaired The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada’s social and sexual committee, wherein he developed guidelines and promoted sexual health education.


In the 1990s, Dr. Boroditsky shifted his focus to mature women. As he notes, "Menopause "shouldn't be a pause from men," but rather a transition into a healthy and productive second half of a woman's life, notwithstanding the  ‘seven dwarfs of menopause - ‘Itchy. Bitchy, Sweaty, Bloaty, Sleepy, Forgetful and Psycho.”


In 1994, Boroditsky collaborated with nurse colleagues Beth Brunsdon-Clark and Terri Ibbott to develop and create a menopause program. Their approach to caring for mature women was unique at the time as it focused on prevention with the goal of preventing disease and maintaining physical, emotional, and sexual health and ensuring quality of life. This program would ultimately become the acclaimed Mature Women’s Centre, a nurse-managed interdisciplinary program now located at Victoria General Hospital that aims to meet the health needs and empower women to make choices as they move through the menopausal transition.


A patient of Boroditsky's whom he first met at the age of 20, (40 years ago), and delivered all her children after that, came to the clinic recently and  stated, "So you have now moved from the Womb to the Tomb" .This was an interesting reflection on  his patterns of practice over the 40+ years of his career.


On the subject of women, when asked by the WJR, how he first met his wife Diane, Boroditsky recalls that it was a blind date indirectly as a result of his being in the all male choir of his father Cantor Boroditsky. Richard's  father Dave, who graduated as an electrical engineer and then went into the family soft drink bottling business "Bell Bottling" later became a full-time Chazan for B'nei Avrum Synagogue an Beth Israel Synagogue.


"Those in my father's choir on "slichot"(Saturday Midnight Service Before Rosh Hashanah), would ask a date to diner and then we'd take our dates with us to shul to hear us sing and then we'd go for coffee," Richard explained.


Richard didn't have a date and one of the choir members David Novikoff told him about a woman who'd moved from Regina. "Dianne and I had a blind date [he took her for dinner with the other choir members and their dates] and then I took her to shul." (As an aside some other members of the choir were Richard's brothers Jack ("Prak") , Carrie Boroditsky, his brother Daniel,  as well as Sheldon Earn, Herb Daien, Brian Abrams  Arky Berkal, Itz Jacob to name a few).


In the past decade, Dr. Boroditsky has focused on expanding the Mature Women’s Centre to its current state. A large part of the expansion was the establishment of the Hysterectomy Alternatives (HAlt) Program. HAlt began as a research project for Uterine fibroid embolization (deliberately blocking blood vessels feeding the fibroids using angiography). Since its inception, over 250 embolizations have been done through HAlt. For every 100 patients referred to the program, only two or three of these patients require hysterectomies. The remaining patients are able to benefit from other medical alternatives and less invasive surgical techniques.


The expanded Mature Women’s Centre contains the only gynecology procedure room in the province. About half of all gynecological  minor day surgical procedures performed in  Manitoba  Hospitals main operating rooms could be performed utilizing this type of procedure room.


Richard and Diane have three children-Alan (podiatric surgeon), Michael (obstetrician, gynecologist) and Stephen (computer whiz), and they have five grandchildren, Matthew, Jordan, Noah and Emma and Madeline.


In terms of Jewish community folklore, it's worth noting that it was Cantor Brownstone who gave Richard's brother Jack the name “Prak."


"You weren't anybody in his choir, until Cantor Brownstone gave you a nickname," Richard recalls. Brownstone gave him the name "Gerdy." Richard says he never knew what that meant.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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