This interview is the first in a series of posts that will feature Young Catholic Professionals from our very own Austin chapter who are striving to Work in Witness for Christ. We can all learn from their excellent example!
A Dallas native, Ashley Stone is a first-year OB/GYN Resident at UT Austin Medical School. She practices at Seton Medical Center and University Medical Center Brackenridge here in Austin.
Being a Catholic in the middle of the workplace is challenging for any young professional, but Ashley faces women’s health issues that directly confront her faith on a daily basis. Her passion for teaching fertility awareness methods is a fruit of her dedication to her patients’ spiritual and physical well-being. Ashley’s journey is a beautiful testimony to what it means to Work in Witness for Christ.
YCP Austin: Ashley, tell us about what led you to become an OB/GYN, and your journey getting where you are today.
Ashley: I knew I wanted to be a doctor when I was in high school. I thought I would become a surgeon, but once I learned about fertility awareness methods and started delivering babies, I knew I was called to obstetrics – it fell so much in line with being pro-life and pro-woman. In my role I’m lucky to be able to strive to give women the healthcare they deserve. Though there are a lot of difficult issues that come up in my field, I very much feel an inner-peace and joy in knowing, believing, and loving the Truth of the Church – we have so much we can gain in this area from Church teaching!
I was first introduced to Fertility Awareness methods while I was in medical school. I was shocked that I hadn’t been exposed to this in med school lectures, and quickly became very passionate. I studied Theology of the Body and Humanae Vitae and fell in love with the Church and its teachings. I couldn’t get enough!
YCP Austin: Have you ever experienced discrimination in your field because of your Faith?
Ashley: Yes! When I was applying to residency programs, I approached my advisor for advice, knowing that as an OB/GYN I would get rejected based on the fact I wouldn’t do certain things because of my beliefs. She said very abruptly: “Doors are going to close for you. You can’t come here.” She had written me off from the get-go, before reading my application, and said I wouldn’t even get into to my own medical school program! I had never felt so discriminated against, and it was based purely on my religious beliefs.
Now my coworkers are aware that I refuse to do certain things like sterilizations, IUDs, and other contraception methods because of my faith, but I do feel an extra pressure because of that; like I have to do extra well on everything else in the eyes of both my peers and supervisors.
YCP Austin: What exactly are Fertility Awareness methods?
Ashley: Fertility Awareness – which is much more than family planning; that’s just the tip of the iceberg – is something that both women and men need to learn. Men need to learn about it because 1) it helps men understand women better, and empathize with what a woman’s body is going through, and 2) most importantly, men can help women appreciate their own true femininity.
Women need to learn fertility awareness because it’s just good healthcare! It helps women know what their body is doing, know when something is wrong, and know when their body is going through changes, with things like emotions or cravings. For a woman, knowing her body better gives her a sense of control and awareness – and as a doctor, it’s one of the vital signs I need from my patients!
YCP Austin: Ashley, tell me about your spiritual journey. How have you grown in your faith, and what role has that played in both your professional and personal life?
Ashley: I started getting interested in my faith when I was in high school, and it began primarily because of the community I was a part of. Then, at USC where I did my undergrad, I met a lot of people with wildly different beliefs than my own, and I realized I needed to really know why I believe what I believe in order to defend my faith. That was when I started doing my own research and reading some works of the the Church like Theology of the Body and Humanae Vitae – I really fell in love with the Church and her teachings! Especially because I had found a goldmine of knowledge in the area of the dignity of women and how our bodies play a big part in creation and God’s plan. I loved how much the Catholic Church respected and revered women.
Growing in my faith really helped me look at life through a different lense. It continues to help me realize that all of the suffering that I’ve experienced at work, all of the difficulties of medical school aren’t just beatings that make life unpleasant; everything is a shared experience with Christ. It gives meaning to the suffering in life, and gets me through the day to day.
YCP Austin: How have you strived to Work in Witness for Christ?
Ashley: A few things have helped me: I have a strong devotion to Blessed Mother Teresa, and I find a lot of inspiration that guides my life and work in the Theology of the Body by St. John Paul II. I also try hard to see Christ in everyone I encounter – patients, coworkers, friends – I try to love them, learn from them, and be a witness to them in everything I do.
I have so many role models to look up to, including our Mother Mary, St. Teresa, St. Josemaria, Fr. Luke in California, many Catholic OB/GYNs, and a multitude of others along the way.
YCP Austin: What advice can you give other young Catholic professionals as we strive to Work in Witness for Christ?
Ashley: I think you first of all need to know and love Christ – and to do that, you need to spend time with him, talk to him like you would a friend! For me, that meant spending a lot of time in mental prayer, talking to him, and just being real!
I think you also need to get to know him on an intellectual level, by learning about him through spiritual reading. Also, Mass and regular confession is so important! Lastly, I think that growing in devotion to Mary has been instrumental in my life – she will lead you to Christ.
To learn more about Fertility Awareness, you are invited to St. Ignatius Catholic Church on Sunday, May 22 at 6:30 p.m. for a Family Planning Conversation with Dr. Ashley Stone. This is open (and encouraged) to both women and men, single and married – because “Family planning and fertility awareness is a two-person job, and it needs to be learned before marriage, if that’s what you’re called to. And it’s just good healthcare!”