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QA Womens HealthFor National Women's Health Week in May, we asked Todd Jenkins, M.D., MSHA, FACOG, professor and division director for the UAB Division of Women's Reproductive Healthcare, some important questions about women's health care, common misconceptions, what makes UAB OB/GYN special, and more.

Jenkins also serves as senior vice-chair for clinical affairs for the UAB Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology and is a senior scientist for the UAB Center for Women's Reproductive Health.

What areas do women tend to put off when it comes to taking care of their general health?

Overall, women do an excellent job of taking care of their health and are much more likely to be up to date on their health maintenance activities. However, women tend to delay self-care when caring for their children, spouse, or parents. They often drop their cervical cancer screening, breast screening, or colonoscopy. They also tend to put off well-care visits with their primary care physician and/or OB/GYN.

As physicians, what areas do we need to promote more when it comes to women and their health?

Cardiac disease is the number one killer of women and, in many studies, complications of osteoporosis/fractures is the second leading cause of death. This shows us that we need do a better job of emphasizing the basics of women’s health - appropriate body weight, appropriate calcium-rich diet, regular exercise, and avoidance of excessive alcohol and tobacco. While these aren’t trendy topics, adherence to these items would extend the life of many women.

We also want to make sure that women choose when to get pregnant rather than have unintended pregnancies, so contraception is always an important topic.

What misconceptions are there when it comes to women’s health?

"Cardiac disease doesn't occur in women."
Cardiac disease does occur in women. It usually occurs slightly later than men, but it is still a significant healthcare issue.

"All my issues are from my hormone levels."
Many women ascribe too many issues to their hormone levels. While variation in hormone levels does have many affects, it seems the lay media ascribe numerous issues to hormones. Secondarily, prescribed hormone therapies have fewer risks and more benefits than most people believe.

"Regular annual pelvic exams will reduce the risk of ovarian cancer."
Unfortunately, we do not have a great screening test for ovarian cancer at this time.

What areas are you most passionate about when it comes to women’s health?

Providing minimally invasive surgical options, when possible, for women with gynecologic conditions.

Making sure that women are aware of all of their options for treatment of their conditions, both medical and surgical.

Educating women on best practices to enhance their life from a health perspective.

What makes UAB OB/GYN special when it comes to women’s health?

Comprehensive care – we can provide almost every type of care that a woman will need within our department. By having all of these specialists and subspecialists under one roof and within one medical record, we can provide longitudinal comprehensive care.
Our people – we are all here to provide the best care possible to improve the lives of the women that we serve.

Why did you chose the field of women’s health?

OB/GYN is the only field where you can be a surgeon, a women’s specialist, and a primary care provider. Additionally, being a part of the creation of a new family is a spectacular opportunity for anyone. Women also take much better care of themselves and are more invested in their care, so focusing on women allows me to work with a more motivated population.

What are you looking forward to for the future of women’s health?

Methods to serve women that are more convenient for women - self care, home care, telemedicine, etc. I think that we will see the traditional visit become less frequent over time.

Increasing types of less invasive screening technologies, such as being able to screen for uterine cancer with a tampon.

Identifying mechanisms to help women with the simple challenges of weight and exercise.