Every Woman, Every Time…Cada Mujer, Cada Vez

What a difference a year makes. It was only a year ago that I said 2013 was “The Year of the Woman” and asked ob-gyns around the nation to lead efforts on behalf of women’s health. We saw a rocky start to the Affordable Care Act, yet as ob-gyns we have appreciated that so much of what we value for our patients is now considered a health benefit:  cervical and breast cancer screening, preconception health, maternity care.

The challenge in front of us is to provide care, lead change efforts in our hospitals and communities, and sustain our practices. At times it is daunting. This last year, we heard your concerns and worked on your behalf to improve our care delivery, to empower safety efforts, and to challenge those who fight reproductive health access, payment reforms and medical liability reform. We have worked hard to keep legislators out of our exam rooms!

A year ago I introduced a mantra that reinforces all that we hold dear: Every Woman, Every Time. For every woman, at every encounter in our health care delivery system, we need to help her achieve optimal health and wellness in the context of reproductive choices. This year has seen uncertainty and changes in health care delivery. I challenged all of us as ACOG Fellows to take the lead, because the changes in medicine will come at a cost that requires each and every one of us to foster change and collaboration.

No longer can we sit back and let change happen. Rather, we need to direct the changes, to lead the transformation that places women first. Only if we place the focus on quality, on service and on attaining health care access for all women will our practices—and our skills—flourish. By making women our focus, we will succeed. This past year, ACOG led a well-woman task force, to achieve consistency in well-woman care across all medical providers. We have opportunities to share with colleagues in internal medicine, pediatrics and family practice, and with our partners who are nurse midwives and nurse practitioners, in all aspects of well-woman care.

It has been an honor to represent the most wonderful specialty, both here and abroad. ACOG has a strong voice—in the halls of Congress, amongst our colleagues across the US, and amongst our sister organizations around the world. We are leaders.

ACOG relies on the work of all our Fellows. I thank each and every one of you for the gift of this year, to represent women, to represent Fellows, to represent ACOG

For Every Woman, Every Time.

Every Woman, Every Time – In Chicago and Beyond

ACOG’s Annual Clinical Meeting in Chicago is just over a week away. I’d like to tell you about the three fabulous speakers that I selected for my President’s Program. I know that each of them will bring alive the spirit of my presidential theme, “Every Woman, Every Time.”

First up will be Dr. Lesley Regan who leads global women’s health efforts for the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists in London. She also chairs the Committee for Sexual and Reproductive Rights for the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics. In “Human Rights and Women’s Health in the 21st Century,” Dr. Regan will address every woman’s basic rights to health care, as well as the challenges that different cultures around the globe face in providing this care.

Our second lecturer is Dr. Mark Hanson, director of the Academic Unit of Human Development and Health at the University of Southhampton in the United Kingdom. Dr. Hanson has focused his work on new ways to reduce disease processes and improve health by championing preventive interventions during preconception, throughout pregnancy, and in infancy and childhood. In his lecture, “The Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD) Challenge,” he’ll provide his insight into why investing in the health of our current generation is the best way to invest in the health of future generations.

The final speaker will be the distinguished Dr. Tyrone Hayes, professor of biology at the University of California–Berkeley. In “From Silent Spring to Silent Night: The Impact of the Environment on Reproductive Health,” Dr. Hayes will illustrate why we must study the impact of environmental chemicals on our health. As I have said many times, and as Dr. Hayes will demonstrate, ob-gyns need to lead efforts to shift the burden of proof away from physicians and the public back to the chemical industry. Companies must prove that chemicals are safe before they are released into the environment and the marketplace.

This year’s annual meeting promises to have something for everyone—great lectures, wonderful camaraderie with colleagues, and an opportunity for all of us to celebrate our wonderful careers in obstetrics-gynecology. See you in Chicago.

A Strong Voice for Women’s Health Research

Marsha B. Henderson-FDA

Marsha B. Henderson, assistant commissioner for women’s health at the FDA.

As ob-gyns, we provide health care for women every single day, sharing their stories and hearing their concerns. And as ob-gyns, we know that many diseases and treatments affect women and men differently. Perhaps no organization frames this gender difference in medicine better than the Society for Women’s Health Research (SWHR).

SWHR was “born” in 1989 when Dr. Florence Haseltine gathered friends and colleagues from medical and scientific organizations across the country to address the critical need for more research focused on women. Meeting at ACOG headquarters in Washington, DC, the group agreed on the need not only for more gynecological research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), but also for increased research in women’s health across many specialties. This multi-disciplinary, multi-organizational effort has thrived ever since.

Last week, Drs. Hal Lawrence, Sandra Carson, Barbara Levy, and I were honored to attend the Annual SWHR Gala Dinner to celebrate the work of Marsha B. Henderson, assistant commissioner for women’s health with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Ms. Henderson is the first recipient of SWHR’s Dr. Estelle Ramey Award for Women’s Health Leadership. In her key role, she coordinates FDA policy, research, and outreach efforts to protect and advance women’s health. Ms. Henderson also advocates for the participation of women in clinical trials and for sex, gender, and subpopulation analyses. Bravo to Ms. Henderson for her outstanding work!

On a related note, we are delighted that SWHR has joined ACOG and many other organizations that are urging the House Energy and Commerce Committee to hold a hearing to examine the progress made by NIH and the FDA on including more women and minorities in medical research. We will keep you updated on any developments on this front.

Ob-Gyns: We Are Natural Leaders

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Attendees pose at the Robert Cefalo ACOG Leadership Institute.

Our Fellows and Junior Fellows are the backbone of ACOG. They are the workhorses, the change artists, the ones who challenge us to do so much more. We rely on their vision, insight, and their ability to lead.

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the annual Robert Cefalo ACOG Leadership Institute conducted at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. I’ve attended the 4-day conference as a student in years past, but this time I participated as faculty and enjoyed myself just as much this time around. If you take leaders from across the United States, provide a beautiful environment with jam-packed days of excellent speakers and challenging projects, throw in the analytical tools to help us understand ourselves better, you have a recipe for success.

Add to this mix a workshop meant to question how we look at problems, how we collaborate, and how we need to work with others and you can understand why each ACOG District has committed to sending their leaders to this conference. Notice that I avoid using the term “future leaders.” I maintain that we, as ob-gyns, are already leaders.

The importance of this conference is that we look for leaders in all stages of development. I met residents who had just started their involvement as Junior Fellows, as well as seasoned District Chairs. Each attendee left with a greater appreciation of the commitment it takes to be a leader. And ACOG, in turn, is ready to commit to these leaders because we know they will be carrying our important messages forward.

Investing in improving communication skills, in team building, and in understanding our own leadership styles will make all of us more successful. In the end, we all benefit.

Yes: Contraceptive Care IS Preventive Care

Dr. Jeanne Conry speaks at the #NotMyBossBusiness rally on the Supreme Court steps on March 25, 2014.

Dr. Jeanne Conry speaks at the #NotMyBossBusiness rally on the Supreme Court steps on March 25.

I had the unique opportunity to stand on the Supreme Court steps this morning and share my experience as an ob-gyn, and the experiences of my patients back home in California, as the Court hears arguments in the Hobby Lobby case. My patients are among the millions of women who need and deserve contraceptive coverage.

I have treated thousands of women in my career and have seen firsthand how birth control and contraceptive counseling have helped them. For some, it helped to avoid an unintended pregnancy. For others, it helped to delay pregnancy until the time was right. For others, it has helped other medical conditions. But they all had one thing in common: Their family planning decisions were personal and their boss was not in the exam room. That is the way it should be, for every woman, every time.

Contraception, like all medical decisions, should be based on an individual woman’s needs and health – and nothing else. Contraceptive care IS preventive care. It enhances health and improves quality of life for women and for their families. By covering contraceptive care, we are making women’s health a priority, and we are investing in FUTURE generations.

Dr. Jeanne Conry with Cecile Richards, President of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, at the #NotMyBossBusiness rally on March 25, 2014.

Dr. Jeanne Conry with Cecile Richards, President of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, at the #NotMyBossBusiness rally on March 25.

Access to contraceptive care can make a world of difference to each woman. It improves the health of our nation and helps our health care system work better for all of us. Contraceptive coverage puts birth control within reach for more American women.
I’m proud to lend my voice to this important issue through my remarks this morning at the Supreme Court (#NotMyBossBusiness) and also here:

I’d also like to recognize important contraception and women’s health messages from two of my physician colleagues whose voices made a difference today:

Advocating for Women’s Health: Finding Common Ground

I have had many opportunities, particularly in the past year, to discuss how important women’s health issues are to investing in our country. Recently our Committee on Government Affairs and staff carried that message to the highest level at ACOG’s 32nd Annual Congressional Leadership Conference (CLC) in Washington, DC. With themes like ‘meeting you halfway,’ we were instilled with faith in our congressional leaders who are looking for collaboration, consensus, and progress. Women’s health should be a nonpartisan, centrist issue. After all, blue and red together create purple, the theme color for this year’s “Every Woman, Every Time” CLC.

A large conference like the CLC can be a scheduling nightmare in the best of circumstances. But add six inches of snow on the day of the main conference and all could have failed. What do you do if you are hosting a roundtable discussion with a congressman who was out of state and snowed in? No problem—we had Skype. Another snowbound yet determined congresswoman was delivered to the CLC via a four-wheel drive. A keynote speaker’s flight was cancelled, so he rented a car and drove four hours to deliver his lecture for us. Where there’s a will, there’s always a way.

At this year’s CLC, we prepared for four important “asks” before we met with our congressional leaders. We discussed SGR repeal, graduate medical education funding to improve access and create residency slots, legislation around gestational diabetes screening and research, and medical liability reform with Safe Harbor legislation. AMA President Elect Dr. Robert Wah, an ob-gyn, summarized many of these issues and then wrapped them all together in a great package. Our final launch was a greeting by Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA 14th District), followed by a rousing presentation by Dr. Ernie Bodai as he described the role of advocacy in getting the postage stamp for breast cancer awareness passed. Finally, we were ready to go to Capitol Hill with our ‘asks.’

Now, what is my ‘ask’ for you? To get involved. You are our leaders and we need you to advocate for women and physicians. Plan now on attending the 33rd CLC in 2015 with Dr. John Jennings.

Guest Blog: The Value of Education and Outreach to Improve Global Women’s Health

Taraneh Shirazian, MD

Millions of women around the globe lack basic rights—rights to health care, rights to family planning services, and the right to lead long, healthy lives. Pregnancy and childbirth are major threats to women in underserved areas of the world with over 300,000 women dying yearly from their associated complications, unattended by trained medical professionals. While most of these deaths are preventable, these women need a voice to bring the world’s attention to what is truly a global crisis in women’s health.

As ob-gyns, awareness of the scope of issues faced by women internationally should be integral to our education. Only with this foundation can we prepare ourselves for the monumental challenges of global health care delivery. Ultimately, it is our collective responsibility as women’s health care providers to give voice to and promote care for these women, whether or not we choose to work at home or abroad.

It has been my work and passion over the last seven years to develop educational resources for health care providers interested in global women’s health, including a new online course. Preparing for cultural and ethical aspects of health care delivery abroad is critical and just as essential as our medical knowledge. These skills can also allow us to take better care of women here in the US.

All women’s health providers should educate themselves on these global women’s health topics, including maternal mortality, obstetric fistula, family planning, and female genital cutting.

I encourage you to be part of a global voice for women.

Taraneh Shirazian, MD, is assistant professor and director of Global Health in the department of ob/gyn and reproductive sciences at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.