A Focus on Women’s Health

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    Women in Cincinnati need not look beyond their own neighborhood for top-notch and cutting edge healthcare practices.


    We all know women differ from men biologically, so why shouldn’t practitioners take this into account when approaching women’s issues? Students and faculty at the University of Cincinnati’s Women’s Health program are dedicated to addressing such issues.



    According to the program’s Web site, Women’s Health is concerned with diseases or conditions that are unique to or more prevalent or serious in women, have distinct causes or manifest themselves differently in women, or have different outcomes or interventions than in men.


    Program Overview
    Lou Ann Emerson, senior associate dean for UC’s College of Nursing, says the Women’s Health program is rooted in a three-fold tradition.


    First, Emerson cites the expertise of the faculty. “All of the faculty are certified in their specialty and practice regularity to maintain their certification,” she says. “The full-time college faculty consists of two one of whom is also and nurse midwife, and three additional nurse midwives, one of whom is a family nurse practitioner.”


    Emerson says the clinical learning opportunities are not limited to the greater Cincinnati area, which sets the program apart from other universities.


    “The clinical learning opportunities for students are spread across the country so students learn about practice in a wide range of types of clinical settings through discussions in their courses,” she says.


    According to Emerson, student-to-student interaction is crucial to the learning process. “Students with a wide range of interests in women’s health enrich each other’s learning in the program,” she says. “For example, one student may be working on a Master’s degree to work with populations of women who are underserved in their community, another may be planning on working in services that assist women in need of fertility service, another with women experience cardiac disease or another chronic disease in which there are nuances that are somewhat different for women and men.”


    Since being named director of women’s cancer for the UC’s Barrett Cancer Center at University Hospital, Edward Richards, MD, has already tackled pre-cancerous and cancerous conditions in the reproductive tract.


    One up-and-coming trend in cancer treatment is a minimally invasive procedure called robotic surgery. Robotic surgery is a method of operating inside the abdomen using robotic “arms” and specialized instruments inserted through small incisions (about half an inch each) into the body. The surgeon controls the operative arms from a computer console.


    “Patients who undergo robotic surgery typically experience less post-operative pain and shorter recovery times when compared to traditional open surgical methods,” Richards explained. “A cancer diagnosis is stressful enough without the added frustration of a long post-surgical recovery period.”


    0708DEGROOT_FASHION.gif Richards will concentrate his efforts in the joint cancer program, a collaborative initiative involving the UC College of Medicine, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and University Hospital that brings together interdisciplinary research teams of scientists and health professionals to research and develop new cures, while providing a continuum of care for children, adults and families with cancer.


    His long-term vision is to create an all-inclusive women’s cancer program at Barrett Cancer Center that offers cutting edge medical therapies, clinical trials, screening programs and patient support services such as counseling, nutritional coaching, relaxation therapy and other aesthetic services, he says.


    “My goal is to transform an area that has historically been one of the most stressful places for patients “a cancer treatment center” into a positive place where their fears are calmed and their ailments are addressed and potentially eliminated,” he says.


    Soon there might be hope for women who suffer from fibromyalgia, thanks to the efforts of UC’s Women Health Research.


    Fibromyalgia is a painful and often debilitating condition that can have a substantial negative impact on quality of life. Often misdiagnosed or mistaken for lupus, multiple sclerosis or rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia “a chronic, widespread pain condition” affects more women than men and can lead to stiffness, sleep disruption, fatigue, memory or concentration problems, mood disturbances and even irritable bowel symptoms.


    Lesley Arnold, MD, has led numerous studies on the debilitating disease and was the principal investigator for Cincinnati-based studies of the two medications now approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of fibromyalgia, Cymbalta and Lyrica.


    Arnold says these medications are breakthroughs in clinical research, but further research is needed to find alternatives for managing the condition. “No two patients are exactly the same,” says Arnold, “which means that not everyone will respond the same way to currently available treatments.” While it is very gratifying to see that the clinical trials in fibromyalgia have led to the availability of two new treatment options, we need to continue to find alternative approaches to the management of this often disabling disorder,” she adds.



    Clinical Practice
    Many UC faculty are trailblazers in their specialties. And Mary South, MD, is certainly among them in a field that has been gaining attention in recent years — urogynecology, which
    focuses on the detection, prevention and treatment of female lower urinary tract disorders and pelvic floor disorders. South recently completed her fellowship training in urogynecology at Duke University Medical Center and has dedicated her career to the management and treatment of pelvic conditions.


    A newcomer to Cincinnati, South says she is eager to establish a patient base at the hospital. South says many women do not think to seek treatment in a university hospital setting. But South is the only practicing urogynecologist at the University of Cincinnati and she encourages women to seek her out for quality care. South cares for women with often embarrassing issues, such as urinal and vaginal prolepses and incontinence. More than anything, she hopes to quell women’s fears.


    “These are quality of life issues, she says about pelvic conditions, “I want help women manage their problems so they can enjoy life. We want to create an environment where women want to see us.”


    Often these prolepses are triggered by everyday occurrences, such as coughing, laughing, but can be managed through minimally invasive procedures offered at the hospital. But urogynecologial issues don’t just affect our mothers and grandmothers. South says it’s not unusual for 20 and 30-somethings to experience such conditions like urgency, vaginal pain from spasms and interstitial cystitis. Both issues are caused by genetics and environmental factors, she notes.


    Overall, South says her vision for her practice is to be a “one-stop shop for pelvic disorders” so women don’t have to go all over the city for treatment.


    Photo: Neysa Ruhl Photography

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