By Richard Asinof
On Sept. 1, Dr. Maureen G. Phipps stepped into her new roles as the chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and assistant dean for Teaching and Research on Women’s Health at The Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University, and chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Women & Infants Hospital and executive chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology for Care New England.
The appointment dovetails with the new medical school affiliation agreement reached in 2012, with Women & Infants Hospital serving as the major teaching affiliate for services unique to women and newborns.
Providence Business News asked Phipps to talk about her vision for the future of women’s health in Rhode Island.
PBN: What are the connections between translational research and clinical practice in women’s health that you would like to pursue?
PHIPPS: I am very pleased to say that the Brown community has a wealth of researchers, clinician-scientists, physicians and engaged community members who can be brought together to push forward discoveries that can improve the health of our community.
In the past few years, there are many examples of clinically oriented research led by Brown investigators that has been translated into improving health for women and their families. These include interventions to prevent preterm birth, treatment and prevention of postpartum depression, early detection of ovarian cancer through the novel use of biomarkers, and developing expertise in fertility-based cryopreservation for patients undergoing cancer treatment.
My plan is to bring people together to continue being on the cutting edge of discovery and support teams in developing clinically meaningful translational research. My hope is to make Rhode Island a pacesetter for advances in women's health.
PBN: How do you think the implementation of the Affordable Care Act will change the health care delivery system in regard to women's health in Rhode Island?
PHIPPS: Patients with access to health care services have better outcomes compared to those patients without such access. The goal of an ACA is to provide the full continuum of care and keep people well. I anticipate that the ACA will have the impact of improving care for individual women through access to primary health care and for the community through improved health of each individual.
PBN: How do you see the emphasis on patient-centered medical homes and the care continuum reshaping health care for women?
PHIPPS: Patients with chronic health problems are vulnerable because they are often involved with many different providers and aspects of the health care system, and the result is often a fragmented care experience.
Through the patient centered medical home, we have the ability to coordinate care and communication among health care providers. This will have the positive impact of improving efficiencies, decreasing duplication of services and improving outcomes. This will undoubtedly be of benefit to women as well as to their families in this new future of health care.
PBN: Do you believe that women’s health is under attack by Republicans in Congress?
PHIPPS: Several priority areas for focus at the federal level include support for women’s health research, health care services for pregnant women and their children, women’s cancers screening and treatment, legislation to prevent violence against women, addressing health care disparities through improved access, and access to necessary health care for all women, including primary care.
We have been most successful with our own experience dealing with our federal delegation on these critical health issues. I look forward to being of assistance to our delegation and to the Administration in finding new ways to work together to improve the health of women and access to needed services.
PBN: How important are the advances in robotic surgery, particularly for surgery on women?
PHIPPS: The emergence of robotic surgery has been an asset for women’s health. It has helped us at Women & Infants offer minimally invasive surgery to a broader range of patients and to reduce the need for open surgery.
The key, though, is to use the technology wisely and responsibly and to offer the full gamut of minimally invasive and open procedures.
At Women & Infants, I believe we have found the right balance in surgical approach that allows women with nearly any condition to access the best form of surgery for her individual case.
By bringing the right surgeon and the right technology to each woman, carefully supporting surgeons’ training and continuously monitoring patients’ outcomes, the minimally invasive program at Women & Infants has made terrific strides bringing a new level of surgical care for the women of our community.