Our Providers

Joanne B. Votel, MD, FACOG

Biography

University Attended:
I attended the College of St. Catherine, and went to the University of Minnesota for Medical School and my residency in OB-Gyn. I started our group with Dr. Wilbrand-Conley and Dr. Kohls in 1991 with the conviction that patients and their doctors work together to make things better, and that mission stands to this day.

 

About Me:
Personally, I come from a humble background and large family. I have always lived in the Saint Paul area, presently Stillwater. I was the first and for a long time the only one to be college educated in my family. I am married, and have 2 step-daughters, 2 daughters, and one son-in-law. Like most people, I have had a mixture of good fortune and very challenging times in my life, and I do believe that helps me to understand what my patients may be experiencing.

 

Education:
I attended the College of St. Catherine, and went to the University of Minnesota for Medical School and my residency in OB-Gyn. I started our group with Dr. Wilbrand-Conley and Dr. Kohls in 1991 with the conviction that patients and their doctors work together to make things better, and that mission stands to this day.

 

Why I Went Into This Field:
What I enjoy most about medicine is the people. In guiding women through beginning or continuing their families, my role is to help them achieve a healthy outcome. With my robotic experience and training, I can treat complex gynecologic problems not only medically, but surgically as well. Having the skills and experience to help women manage their health, menstrual, contraceptive, obstetric, and pelvic prolapse problems is rewarding.

 

What I would want new and existing patients to know about me is that I will work with them to define or reach their health related goals, whether simple or complex, and I am an experienced and ‘patient’ resource. It is a privilege to serve.

Patricia Y. Kohls, MD, FACOG

Biography

University Attended:
Miami University in Ohio for undergraduate studies
University of Cincinnati for medical school 
University of Minnesota for OB-Gyn residency.

 

About Me:

Outside of medical practice, I enjoy sailing, hiking, biking, golf, music, and volunteering at Como Zoo. I am married and have two daughters.

 

Education:
I attended Miami University in Ohio for undergraduate studies, the University of Cincinnati for medical school and the University of Minnesota for OB-Gyn residency.
I am one of the three “founding mothers” of the group along with Dr. Wilbrand-Conley and Dr. Votel. We take pride in being a collaborative practice and often put our heads together to solve tough clinical problems. Not all groups have that degree of partnership.

 

Areas of particular interest in OB-Gyn are general obstetrics, vaginal and minimally invasive surgery and in office procedures. It’s so great that we have better and safer surgical techniques for women today in addition to alternatives to surgery.
Minneapolis St. Paul magazine gave me the honor of being named a “Top Doctor” and I have also been in Minnesota Monthly’s “Top Doctors for Women” listing.

 

Why I Went Into This Field:
Variety in day-to-day activities as an OB-Gyn physician is what attracted me to the specialty. I also appreciate the opportunity to develop long term relationships with patients. It’s especially a privilege to now be seeing daughters of my patients as new patients; it also means that I’ve been in practice a while!

Laure J. Waschbusch, MD, FACOG

Biography

University Attended:
My undergrad degree was in electrical engineering from North Dakota State University. Then it was on to medical school at the University of Minnesota. Finally, I completed my OB-Gyn residency at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Directly out of residency, I joined Partners OB-Gyn and have spent my entire career with our group.

 

About Me:

I love to travel and take adventure trips! I have hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Pichu in the Andes mountains of Peru. I love the Boundary waters, biking, and have been kick boxing for the past year. I am generally game for most things, but I have noticed that I don’t like “roughing it” as much as I did 10 years ago! I also love hanging out with my family and friends and just relaxing. Nothing beats that!

 

Education:
I have spent many years working in collaboration with the HealthEast care system. I started out heading up peer review then was elected OB department chair for 2 terms. I am finishing up my 6th year as President of the HealthEast medical staff and I also sit on the HealthEast board of directors. I have learned a lot about heath care policy and am committed to being part of shaping policy that keeps patients first and continually improves health care quality. I guess my motto would be: to whom much is given much is expected.

 

Why I Went Into This Field:
I am a breast cancer survivor, so I know the struggles with dealing with the medical system from both sides. I believe this drives my passion for advocating for patients. I was very lucky to have so much support from my patients as well as my friends and family.

Reetu Syal, MD, FACOG

Biography

University Attended: St. Thomas

 

Education:

While at St. Thomas my original major was accounting.  I had just finished two years of accounting when one day, I was dragged to a genetics lecture by my roommate.  She wouldn’t go alone so I accompanied her.  Dr. Hartung spoke about “calico cats and genetics”.  All I heard was that biology and genetics are awesome.  The next day I changed my major to biology, finished in two years and went to the University of MN medical school.  I met my husband in anatomy class.  I went to a lecture about smoking in pregnancy, and it was at that moment I knew I wanted to take care of women, from the beginning of life to the end.  After finishing residency here in the Twin Cities, I joined Partners OB-Gyn in 2003.

 

Why I Went Into This Field:

I love educating my patients.  The human body is amazing and complicated, but very predictable, and it all makes sense.  I cannot share my skills with patients, but I can share my knowledge with them and because of this most of my time is spent drawing pictures, educating, and explaining why things are happening.  Patients make better decisions when they are educated.

 

The best part about my job is also the greatest honor:  I am being invited into the lives of my patients, into their health, and into their unique stories.  I cherish this part of my job.  This is what drives me.

Kathryn H. Goralski, MD, FACOG

Biography

University Attended:
I completed my residency training at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and my medical school education at the University of Minnesota.

 

About Me:
I enjoy running, golf and spending time with my family.

 

Education:
I have been board certified and an active Fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology since 2006.

 

Why I Went Into This Field: 
I joined Partners Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2004.  My primary interest is the broad scope of obstetrics, including diabetes, maternal medical conditions, thrombophilias, twins and many more!  I also enjoy adolescent/young adult gynecology, contraceptive counseling and preventative health.  I also have a strong background in minimally invasive surgery, robotics and in-office procedures.

Megan McEllistrem, DO, FACOG

Biography

University Attended:
Bachelor’s degree from St Catherine’s College
Medical school in Kansas City, MO
Residency at UMN Medical School

 

About Me:

After graduating from high school and college, I began adventuring. I learned to white water raft in Colorado, I spent a night in a shelter at a park in the Porcupine Mountains while tornados passed overhead, I backpacked Europe (12 countries in 2 months) with my twin sister and two best friends, I biked down a Volcano in Hawaii at sunrise, I zip-lined thought Costa Rica, I let a sea lion lick my leg in the Galápagos Islands.  I performed no less than 50 pelvic exams in a scorching hot exam room in Honduras with Dr. Waschbusch. I took 12 medical students to Ghana to run a hospital and surgical ward. I have deep sea fished countless times with zero success, I snorkeled off the Belizean coast with sharks and a dolphin pod in the middle of the ocean, and there has been countless adventures between. I like fun.

 

Education:
After graduating from St Catherine’s College, I attended medical school in Kansas City, MO. I completed a grueling residency at the University of Minnesota. I have been board certified since 2011 and became an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School.  I regularly take on medical students and residents to help train the next generation of physician dedicated to the highest level of care for patients.

 

Why I Went Into This Field:
My greatest interests in medicine are the long term relationships I get to have with my patients.  I very much enjoy all areas of obstetrics, including high risk pregnancies.  I love minimally invasive surgical procedures and in general am very glad to be a part of your care.

Sheri Skalsky, MS, WHNP-BC

Biography

University Attended:
Bachelor Degree in Nursing from North Dakota
Graduate school at the University of Minnesota

 

About Me:

When in Texas, I enjoyed sail boating, reading, and traveling.  I have made many medical mission trips to Ghana and Burkina Faso, Africa to expand my cultural knowledge of women’s health care needs and fulfill my desire to help women that need it most. Now, I look forward to winter activities and relaxing on the lake in my home in Minnesota and being closer to my family.

 

Education:
I was born, raised, and graduated from high school and obtained my bachelor of science in nursing all in North Dakota. After working as a labor and delivery nurse, teaching Lamaze and raising a family, I returned to graduate school at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis in the Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner program and graduated in 2005.

 

Why I Went Into This Field:
Women are fascinating creatures with no two women being alike.  The challenge of guiding women through their health care needs is the most rewarding career. I have enjoyed assisting women with their birth control needs, preventative exams, infertility, pregnancy, and gynecological problems for the past 10 years in Williston, ND and Corpus Christi, TX.  Now, I have made Minnesota my home and was fortunate to be able to join Partners Ob-Gyn in January 2016.

Melissa Jones, DNP, WHNP-BC

Biography

University Attended:
Bachelor Degree in Nursing with a concentration in Women’s Studies from St. Olaf College
Doctor of Nursing Practice degree, Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner at the University of Minnesota

 

About Me:

I was born, raised, and educated in Minnesota and cannot imagine calling any other state home. After spending five years working as an inpatient Registered Nurse at the University of Minnesota Medical Center, I pursued my Doctor of Nursing Practice degree as a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner. I absolutely love being a women’s healthcare provider and feel incredibly honored to be a part of each patient’s unique healthcare journey. I value individuality in the patient experience and try to bring a holistic perspective to my practice. Prior to joining the Partners Ob-Gyn team, I enjoyed my time working as a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner at a busy family planning clinic. Areas that I am particularly interested in include routine Ob-Gyn care, adolescent/young adult gynecology, and contraception counseling, including IUD procedures.  In my free time I love going up to the family cabin, traveling, cooking, and spending time with my family and our Tibetan Terrier Marley.

 

Why I Went Into This Field:
I am amazed by women and the female body – what we are capable of physically, mentally, and emotionally. I am inspired every day by both the patients I see and the women I work with. Working as an inpatient nurse I realized how much I wanted to build long-term relationships with women throughout the lifespan, being a part of individual healthcare journeys, health promotion, disease prevention, and empowering women to be an active participant in their health and wellness.

Melissa Hoff-Isbell, RDMS – OBGYN, AB, BR

Biography

University Attended:
University of Wisconsin Lacrosse (Biology)
St.  Cloud Technical College (Diagnostic Medical Sonography)

 

About Me:
I enjoy spending time with my husband and kids staying busy as their personal taxi driver for sports and activities! My hobbies include traveling, gardening, and reading whenever there is a quiet moment.

 

Education:
RDMS – ObGyn, AB, BR

 

Why I Went Into This Field:
I feel like Partners is an extended family to me as I have been here for over 10 years.  I am fascinated with the ability to image the human body without being invasive during most studies.  Sonography gives me a balance between the relationships made from patient care and the science of ultrasound physics.  Partners allows for this as they stay on the cutting edge of what ultrasound has to offer along with keeping up with advances in 2D, 3D, and 4D.

Deb Gienau, RDMS - OBGYN

Biography

University Attended:
Chippewa Valley Technical College – Wisconsin

 

About Me:

I enjoy being active and outdoors. Some of my favorite hobbies/activities are running, biking, paddle boarding, and volleyball. I also enjoy spending time with my friends and family.  I have one child, a daughter, who is going to be starting her second year in college. It’s an exciting and busy time in life, with much enjoyment.

 

Education:
I attended Chippewa Valley Technical College in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

 

Why I Went Into This Field:
I knew I wanted to work with people in healthcare, and ultrasound just sounded fun! I explored other options initially because of the long waiting list that was tied to the program.  I worked in a long term care facility as a nurse’s aide while I went to school for nursing. I did get licensed as an LPN and then continued to work as that while going to school for ultrasound. I like the technicality part of ultrasound, but mostly it’s extremely rewarding and enjoyable to be a part of the patient’s care.

Polly Torkelson, Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC)

Biography

University Attended: Academy of Lactation Policy and Practice

 

About Me:

I currently reside in the southern metro with my husband and my two children. In my spare time I like to dance, go running, submerse myself in all things music, and relax at home with my family.

 

Education:

After running in to some breastfeeding issues of my own after the birth of my second child, I decided that I wanted to educate myself about breastfeeding as much as I possibly could so that I could help other women having the same issues that I was having.

 

Why I Went Into This Field:

I love being a Certified Lactation Counselor because it gives me joy knowing that I’m helping someone. It always amazes me to see the drive and determination a woman has once you give her a little guidance. The doctors at Partners Ob-Gyn have graciously let me share my knowledge and resources with our patients about breastfeeding and I couldn’t be happier!

Pam Pletscher, Registered Nurse

Biography

University Attended:
Swedish Hospital School of Nursing

 

About Me:

I am the mother of three amazing and beautiful adult children, and am patiently waiting for one of them to make me a grandmother. I am a Packer fan and stockholder in a purple state, but I don’t let that get me down. I enjoy reading, travel and gardening in my spare time.

 

Education:
I have been a Registered Nurse for far longer than I care to admit. I started my career in hospital medical/surgical nursing and have since worked in several clinics in such diverse areas as oncology, allergy & asthma, family practice and school nursing.

 

Why I Went Into This Field:
Being a registered nurse was the only career I ever wanted to pursue.

Cheri Faragher, Registered Nurse

Biography

University Attended:
Lakewood Community College

 

About Me:
I am a mother to 3 beautiful daughters, and have 5 grandchildren. I am happiest when I am spending time with my family, and love finding new experiences to share with my grandkids. I am an explorer at heart, and will travel anytime that I get the opportunity.

 

Education:
I have been a nurse for 27 years, and have a special interest in women’s health. I started my career at  St. Paul Ramsey hospital (now Regions) in obstetrics, then worked in an infertility clinic for several years before joining the Partners team.

 

Why I Went Into This Field:
I chose to go into nursing because I wanted the opportunity to bring together an interest in science with the desire to work closely with my community. I find it rewarding to help people achieve their health goals.