New definition of OB/GYN specialty likely to do more harm than good

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1314902_99313658In early September, the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology posted a new definition of the profession to their website: They insisted that members treat only women, and limit the time they spend doing non-gynecologic procedures. According to the group s executive director, Dr. Larry C. Gilstrap, and reported in the New York Times, the motivation behind this move stems from the fact that the obstetrics and gynecology specialty was intended to treat the female reproductive tract and was restricted to taking care of women. He emphasizes that this specialty is the only one that is gender-specific, which is how it has been since 1935.

Well, practicing gynecologists who treat male patients, including Dr. Elizabeth Stier who works at the Boston Medical Center, are very worried that this move is going to be harmful. She takes care of men who are at high risk for anal cancer, a disease which although still uncommon, is increasing in incidence among men and women with certain risk factors, including HIV and, based upon more recent studies, HPV as well human papillomavirus, another sexually transmitted virus,. Screening procedures are similar to those used to screen women for cervical cancer, and experts say that because of their training in screening for cervical cancer, gynecologists are the most-qualified and most efficient in mastering the technique.

The ABOG s ruling is especially concerning given that this move comes on the heels of the proposed start of a clinical trial intended to prevent anal cancer. With this decision, many of the best doctors will not be allowed to participate. Dr. Mark H. Einstein, a gynecologic oncologist at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, adds, I think we ll see significant setbacks.

And we couldn t agree more. ACSH s Ariel Savransky says, This move really makes no sense. Is the specialty of Ob-Gyn really gaining anything from being so stringently gender-specific? If gynecologists are the most-qualified and best-trained doctors to perform these potentially life-saving procedures on high-risk men, they should be the ones doing them. Loudly proclaiming themselves to be the only gender-specific specialty does not seem like something to brag about, necessarily, when compared to the obstacles to progress such a policy entails. The ABOG should re-think this immediately.