Dr. Gem Ashby (left) and Dr. Kristen Witkowski (right) and the all-female staff at Gentle Hands Ob/Gyn in Wesley Chapel provide quality, compassionate care for women of all ages. (Photos: Charmaine George)

As the second anniversary of her office’s grand opening approaches, Gentle Hands Ob/Gyn owner and obstetrician Gem Ashby, M.D., is happy to be watching her practice grow.

“We see pregnant patients and non-pregnant patients,” Dr. Ashby says. “We love our jobs very much.”

Gentle Hands is located about a mile east of I-75, just north of the intersection of S.R. 56 and Cypress Ridge Blvd. in Wesley Chapel. 

Gentle Hands offers “the full gamut” of obstetrics and gynecological care, including caring for patients with both low-risk and high-risk pregnancies, plus issues such as contraception, abnormal bleeding, management of abnormal pap smears, pelvic pain, painful intercourse, bladder pain and menopausal symptoms.

In addition, the physicians of Gentle Hands perform surgeries, including in-office procedures, plus robotic and laparoscopic surgeries, which are minimally invasive and allow women to have hysterectomies with shorter recovery times. They are affiliated with and deliver babies at AdventHealth Wesley Chapel.

From 2009-17, Dr. Ashby spent eight years with a corporate practice in Wesley Chapel. While she loved her work, she found herself frustrated with the restrictions of the corporate environment and decided to start her own practice.

“I think the biggest difference at Gentle Hands is that, as physicians, we get to practice medicine how we feel is appropriate without a corporation breathing down our necks,” she says. “We can take more time (with our patients) if we need more time.”

She says her biggest complaint about the corporate environment was being compelled to see a certain number of patients each day. She is happy that to share that Gentle Hands Ob/Gyn takes a different, more patient-centered, approach.

“You get to know the patients better, because the patient is not just a number,” she says, “but a person that you know and that your staff knows.”

Dr. Ashby says there was a lot of thought put into the name of her practice. 

“‘Gentle Hands’ conjures up everything I want the practice to be,” she says. “Hands are holding and caring, gentle and inviting. We put the hands in the logo to personify that, and added the flower to represent us as women. There was a lot of thought behind it.”

Covid Crisis Safety

Dr. Ashby and her staff also have employed a gentle touch when it comes to the Covid-19 crisis, implementing a number of safety measures for her patients and employees.

“During the height of the crisis, we limited patients in the office to emergency patients and obstetrical patients,” Dr. Ashby says. “Now that the state has lifted the ban, we are slowly seeing patients again, and keeping social distance. The patients wear masks in the office, and everyone in the office wears masks all the time.”

Dr. Ashby was born and raised in Barbados and moved to the U.S. when she was 19. She completed her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology at Bloomfield College in Bloomfield, NJ. She then earned her Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in Newark.

She completed her residency training at the Florida State University program in Pensacola from 2005-09. She is Board-certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology and is a Fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

New Doctor, More Care

Gentle Hands Ob/Gyn expanded last August when Kristen Witkowski, M.D., joined the practice. 

Dr. Witkowski administers an ultrasound to a Gentle Hands Ob/Gyn patient.

Dr. Witkowski also is Board-certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology and a Fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. She graduated from Loyola University of Chicago with a B.S. degree in Biology, then earned her M.D. degree at the University of Illinois at Chicago before completing her residency at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, also in Chicago. 

Dr. Ashby says she was pleased to welcome Dr. Witkowski to the office, allowing the two physicians to care for pregnant patients, which was almost impossible when Dr. Ashby was the sole practitioner.

“You hardly ever find solo Ob/Gyn practices anymore, because it leaves you very fatigued,” explains Dr. Ashby. “There’s always a possibility that you will have someone in labor.”

While all Ob/Gyn practices are for women, Dr. Ashby says Gentle Hands is set apart because it is both owned by a woman and run by women. And, all nine staff members are women. 

“We have every type of woman on our staff,” Dr. Ashby explains. “They are diverse age-wise — both older and younger — and of almost every ethnicity. It helps us to remember what each type of woman wants, so it makes us better and caring. For example, if someone is older, she might not want to use a cell phone, whereas a younger woman might not want to fill out pages and pages of paperwork.”

Dr. Ashby says that the Gentle Hands office is modern — allowing women to use technology to sign in on their cell phones, check their labs online, and other practices that make the office convenient. But, she draws the line at allowing technology to interfere with her relationship with the patients. She says she and Dr. Witkowski, along with their staff, won’t be using computers or a tablet or phone when they’re in the examination room with you.

“I find doctors are on two extremes,” says Dr. Ashby. “They’re either so old fashioned that everything is on paper, or so ‘teched out’ that the patient feels like no one’s paying attention to them. I feel that we have just the right balance.”

Judy Ravenna says she has been a patient of Dr. Ashby’s for about 10 years, following the doctor to her new practice when she opened it in 2018.

“She is the epitome of a really caring, knowledgeable physician,” says Judy. “She makes sure you feel comfortable and takes time to answer all your questions before she leaves the room.”

Judy says she has referred many friends and neighbors to Dr. Ashby, and they have all had the same wonderful experience.

“In today’s world, it seems like no one has time for you,” Judy says, “but she takes the time.”

In addition to caring for the women of Wesley Chapel and New Tampa, Dr. Ashby does volunteer work at the Judeo-Christian Clinic on N. MacDill Ave. in Tampa, a faith-based clinic for medically needy patients. She also speaks to community groups and at churches and high schools on women’s health topics.

Gentle Hands Ob/Gyn is located at 2391 Oak Myrtle Ln. in Wesley Chapel. To make an appointment, call (813) 803-2219. For more information, visit GentleHandsObGyn.com.

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