When asked what it is like to reach Mercy Medical Center’s 25th anniversary of The Weinberg Center for Women’s Health and Medicine, Sister Helen Amos notes the time frame gives her perspective on how far the facility has come.
“When we began this, we were just experimenting you might say with the notion of what it means to be a Center for Excellence,” she said. “We chose the health care of women and the education of women about their health as the focal point at a time when we didn’t know what it meant to be a Center of Excellence. Having chosen something that fit well with the mission of the Sisters of Mercy really set us on a path that has proven to be remarkably successful.”
Today, the center offers a one-stop-shop approach to women’s health needs including breast care, plastic and reconstructive surgery, gynecology, radiation oncology and mammography.
Amos notes the idea of having a center dedicated solely to women’s health was thanks to medical literature published in the early 1990s stating the differences in men’s and women’s health.
“Even the symptoms of a heart attack are different in a woman from what typically presents in a male,” Amos said. “Because of the fact that that was just in the headlines at that particular time, we said this gives us an opportunity to focus on something that is just coming to the public awareness. It was just a stroke of good luck that it matched with the purpose of the Sisters of Mercy to care especially for women.”
Though services were initially scattered throughout Mercy’s campus, the hospital opened a state-of-the-art, six-floor facility in 2003 combining all under one roof. One of the most important improvements Mercy made during its quarter-century of service was finding the right caregivers, according to Amos.
“Once we put emphasis on women and women’s health, we sought out the doctors and the nurses and the staff that had really a track record that suited that focus,” she said.
Dr. Neil B. Rosenshein joined the center shortly after its founding to help develop the program which now features the Institute of Gynecological Care named in his honor.
“It was a great opportunity,” he said. “My vision meshed with their vision when I left (Johns) Hopkins to deliver care to women in an environment that really, I think, is unsurpassed.”
One unique aspect to the gynecological practice is nearly every examining room has a private bathroom. “You just don’t see that in the average university setting or in private practice setting,” Rosenshein said.
Over the years, Rosenshein has seen how technology has allowed patients to have minimally invasive surgeries such as robotic or laparoscopy that will shorten both the length of stay and recovery time. This year, Dr. Dwight D. Im marked his 5,000th robotic surgery.
Leader of the radiation oncology team, Dr. Maria C. E. Jacobs recalls her and several other Mercy doctors going to Germany several years ago to learn more about Intraoperative Radiotherapy (IORT) from the manufactures. Mercy became the first health care facility in the state to use the technology to allow patients to be treated with a single radiation session instead of over a four to six and a half week timeframe.
“We have been very excited about (IORT) because after six years, we have treated close to 200 patients,” Jacobs said. “We are very strict with the criteria of eligibility for very obvious reasons. We want to do the very best for the patients. We are going to be better served with this technology. In general, we have been extremely pleased with the results.”
Jacobs has observed that when a woman feels their medical team understands their disease as well as social issues they are facing, their quality of life is better.
“Even in those patients that we treat with stage 4 cancer, their quality of life is significantly improved when you have your medical care all under the same roof because you have the convenience of being taken care of without the issues of transportation, the issues of lack of communication in the medical care,” she said. “My experience through my patients is the level of comfort and emotional peace — they are significantly improved when your medical care happens in one institution happening under the same roof.”
Dr. Gauri Bedi, associate director of The Hoffberger Breast Center, believes women, overall, are much more proactive about their health.
“When women see good care, they come there,” she said. “They recognize it. They talk to their friends about whether it is a good place to go. Then they come to your hospital for their overall care because when they recognize there is good care they look for it, they find it, they get it and then they stay with you.”
Over her time at Mercy treating breast cancer, one of the most important improvements she has seen is the individualizations of treatment. Several decades ago, patients would get surgery, chemotherapy and radiation no matter what type of cancer they had. Now doctors are taking in many factors when it comes to putting together a multidisciplinary treatment plan for patients such as genomic tests and size and location of the tumor.
Dr. Jean K. Warner, director for The Tyanna O’Brien Center for Women’s Imaging, has been at Mercy for 10 years. During that time frame, she has seen the facility convert to 3D mammography in 2013 — long before other health care providers made the move.
“That has been a good improvement for our patients,” she said. “The added sensitivity of the mammogram and the decrease in the recall rates from screening.”
The ultrasound equipment is state of the art and Warner has watched two upgrades occur including the most recent one completed last year. “That just gives us a more detailed examination of the breast,” she said. For women with dense breast tissue, the center has an automated whole breast ultrasound designed to find potential cancer lumps not seen in a mammogram.
Risk assessments are also completed on patients where they use an iPad to interact with a special computer software program asking personal, social, medical and family histories.
“That helps us to run multiple computer models that exist to help us assess what their risk (of cancer) is,” Warner said. “It is a big interest I have because I think there are a lot of women out there that don’t realize their risk for breast cancer and those higher-risk women actually need more than a yearly mammogram. We are trying to identify those high-risk women and help them get plugged into the services they need.”
Warner notes the importance of having a center focused on women’s health. Women will get better care as physicians are sub-specialized in particular fields and may pick up on health concerns faster. “Just by having that sub-specialization, you are going to have a group of physicians who are more knowledgable,” she said.
“They have more in-depth (knowledge of) what is going on in the field. … We become better at recognizing (medical issues) when (they) happen so better at finding it and better at treating it because whenever you do more of something you get better at it. To me, that is a huge advantage.”
|This article is featured in The Daily Record’s Women Who Lead: A Woman’s Guide To Business. The mission of the Women Who Lead (formerly Path to Excellence) magazine is to give our readers the opportunity to meet successful women of all ages, backgrounds and beliefs and learn how they define success. Read more from Women Who Lead.|