By Alison Stuebe
I'm having trouble coming up with that concise, compelling anecdote about the patient who inspired me to go into Obstetrics and Gynecology, because so many people have helped me realize that this is where I belong.
There are the women whose babies I've delivered, whom I've gotten to know at a clinic visit or during the early contractions of active labor, and then coached through the calm between pushes in the last few minutes before delivery. There are the teenagers at their first Gyn exam, nervously kicking the end of the table as we talk about safer sex, the benefits of the pill and just what a speculum actually is. And there are the patients who are very, very sick - the 44-year-old with metastatic ovarian cancer, whose family was deciding when to enroll her in hospice, or the 24-year-old with an FDIU at 36 weeks, whose occult abruption ultimately required a caesarian-hysterectomy.
I have chosen Obstetrics and Gynecology because, for me, it embodies the best of every field of medicine, from menarche to senility and from preventive care to radical reconstructive surgery. My months on general surgery were impressive, spanning everything from evaluation of routine inguinal hernias to the intricacies of Whipple reconstructions, but Obstetrics and Gynecology enthralled me. It was one thing to tease out a diseased pancreas, but quite another to extract a viable infant and then provide a lifetime of follow-up care for the mother. I look forward to providing my patients with definitive treatment of surgical and medical problems and then following their primary care for decades to come.
Ob/Gyn also allows me to pursue my longstanding interest in women's health. In 1995, I attended the NGO Forum of the U.N. World Conference on Women in Beijing and learned about women's issues around the world. At the time, I was pursuing a career as a journalist, working first for The Washington Post and then for The New York Times on the Web. As one of my projects at The New York Times, I developed an extensive web site on women's health, which was named as Yahoo's "Site of the Day." During medical school, I've continued to pursue my interest, serving as co-coordinator of Washington University's American Medical Women's Association chapter and editing the American Medical Student Association's "Women in Medicine" resource manual. This year, I will teach an elective course, introducing concepts of gender biology and women's health research to first-year medical students.
I have also continued to explore ways of using computer technology to inform patients. This fall, I will be working with Washington University's Teen Obstetrics Clinic to develop a teen-oriented guide to pregnancy. As part of the project, we hope to create computer-generated day-by-day "pregnancy calendars" for clinic patients, allowing them to track their pregnancy and receive daily reminders for good prenatal care.
Ultimately, I hope to join the faculty of an academic medical center, where I can combine patient care with my love of teaching, and where I can continue to explore how interactive technologies can inform and empower patients. Most of all, however, I look forward to taking care of my patients, drawing on the remarkable depth and breadth of Obstetrics and Gynecology.