ACH’s New Home for Women’s Health

The following article was written by Thomas Crocker and recently published in MDNews

Anchored by OB/GYN services with a reputation for excellence, the Women’s Health Center at Auburn Community Hospital is fast becoming a comprehensive destination for women’s health that encompasses more than maternity services and gynecologic surgery.

Established earlier this year, the Women’s Health Center reflects a fundamental fact of women’s lives: their health and wellness needs change dramatically throughout life, from family planning and prenatal care to menopause and beyond. Caring for women across their lifespan requires diverse services, and that is what the Women’s Health Center offers.

“The Women’s Health Center reflects the evolution of Auburn Community Hospital’s commitment to women’s health,” says Loren Van Riper, MD, FACOG, Chief of OB/GYN Services at Auburn Community Hospital. “Initially, that revolved around obstetrics and gynecologic surgery, but we’ve pushed forward to include breast care and other services as part of the Women’s Health Center. This center was a long-term goal for the hospital because there was a need for it in our community. Women shouldn’t have to drive 45 minutes to Syracuse for the everyday health services they need.”

True to its roots, the Women’s Health Center offers full-spectrum maternity services, including prenatal care, labor and delivery, and postpartum care. In addition to providing obstetric care, Dr. Van Riper and his colleagues also perform the gamut of gynecologic surgery, including minimally invasive and vaginal procedures.

“We treat patients for endometriosis, pelvic pain, stress urinary incontinence, abnormal uterine bleeding and pelvic relaxation, among other problems,” Dr. Van Riper says. “I specialize in vaginal surgery. On the minimally invasive side, we frequently perform laparoscopic pelvic surgery, including hysterectomy, oophorectomy and tubal ligation.”

The Women’s Health Center also offers services that make it a destination for all women, not just new or expectant mothers. These services include breast care and imaging, with more planned for the future.

“Women tend to put others first — resulting in their own self-care being secondary,” says Tanya Paul, MD, FACOG, OB/GYN at Auburn Community Hospital. “It’s gratifying to be part of a center where women can receive all the care they need, including ultrasounds, screening mammograms, bone density screenings, referrals for colonoscopies and other preventive health services, and breast care from a SUNY Upstate Medical University specialist, in addition to OB/GYN services.”

An OB/GYN Team With Deep Community Ties

Auburn Community Hospital’s four board-certified OB/GYNs and three midwives recently moved their office to the hospital, where an attached, one-level building serves as the home of the Women’s Health Center. Over time, the hospital plans to migrate all women’s health providers and services to this building to bring everything under one roof.

The OB/GYN team features clinicians with decades of experience who share a passion for caring for women of all ages and improving women’s health in Central New York, where their roots run deep. Dr. Van Riper has lived in the Auburn area for years and practiced at Auburn Community Hospital for more than a decade, most of that time while serving as Chief of OB/GYN Services. A graduate of the University of Virginia School of Medicine, Dr. Paul performed her internship and residency at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse and practiced OB/GYN in Central New York for 13 years before joining Auburn Community Hospital in 2013.

OB/GYN Donald Calzolaio, MD, FACOG, graduated from SUNY Upstate Medical University and performed his residency at Upstate University and Crouse hospitals. He has cared for women in Central New York and Connecticut for 25 years, the past 10 at Auburn Community Hospital, where he enjoys the atmosphere of a small, community-based facility.

The newest member of the team, OB/GYN Amy Hoeft MacDonald, MD, joined Auburn Community Hospital in July after spending six years in private practice in Rochester. She graduated from SUNY Upstate Medical University and performed her residency at University of Rochester Medical Center.

“Auburn Community Hospital was an attractive destination for me because of the OB/GYN group’s reputation for delivering excellent care,” Dr. MacDonald says. “The hospital is focused on meeting the unique needs of the community, and the recent integration of breast care into the Women’s Health Center is a great example of that. I am excited to be part of a group that is constantly looking to grow and change to deliver better care to patients.”

Comprehensive Maternity Services

A variety of factors make Auburn Community Hospital an outstanding place to have a baby. Welcoming and homey, the Stardust Community Birthing Center In Memory of John and Irene Bisgrove features:

  • A certified lactation consultant on staff
  • A dedicated OB/GYN for performing Caesarean sections
  • All-private labor and delivery and postpartum rooms, with the former featuring whirlpool tubs for use during labor
  • Around-the-clock availability of epidural anesthesia services
  • Experienced, compassionate nurses, many of whom are certified in Advanced Cardiac Life Support, Neonatal Resuscitation, Inpatient Obstetric Nursing or Electronic Fetal Monitoring (EFM)
  • Outpatient breastfeeding support
  • Staff-led childbirth education classes and birthing center tours

The birthing center is pleased to offer EFM, which records fetal heartbeat and uterine contractions throughout labor without a provider having to be present.

“EFM is a newer innovation, and the advantage of it is that OB/GYNs, midwives or nurses can review the monitor data strips remotely and improve communication between patients, nurses and providers. It also provides educational opportunities for all staff,” Dr. Calzolaio says. “If there’s any concern, I can review the information on my phone or the computer in my office and, if necessary, attend to the patient before the nurse notifies me of a problem.”

An all-female midwifery program gives expectant mothers the option of seeing a midwife for certain aspects of prenatal care and receive one-on-one support during labor and delivery.

“Our OB/GYNs and midwives practice as part of one group, and we coordinate closely with them throughout each patient’s pregnancy,” Dr. Calzolaio says. “Patients see both OB/GYNs and midwives throughout pregnancy, and there’s a midwife on call with an OB/GYN every night. Patients’ perceptions of their delivery experience are extremely positive when they receive care from a midwife.”

Care Doesn’t End with Patients’ Discharge

“We place follow-up phone calls after moms and babies go home to ensure they’re doing well and point them to community resources if they need anything,” says Susan Bobb, RN, Director of Women’s Services at Auburn Community Hospital. “Women love the individual attention they get here that isn’t always possible at bigger facilities.”

Academic-Level Breast Care In a Community Setting

Last summer, Auburn Community Hospital took the first step toward establishing a comprehensive breast program when Ranjna Sharma, MD, FACS, Chief of the Section of Breast Surgery, Medical Director of the Breast Cancer Program and Associate Professor of Surgery in the Department of Surgery at SUNY Upstate Medical University, began holding a clinic and performing procedures at the hospital. Dr. Sharma joined SUNY Upstate Medical University in March 2019 after nearly a decade at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. She visits Auburn Community Hospital every Monday and alternates between seeing patients in clinic and performing surgeries.

“SUNY Upstate Medical Center and Auburn Community Hospital thought it was important to make comprehensive breast services available to more people in the greater Central New York community,” she says. “We started with surgical services in 2019, and we began bringing medical oncology services to Auburn Community Hospital earlier this year. Hopefully, we’ll be able to add radiation oncology in the next two to three years to complete the program.”

Dr. Sharma sees patients with and performs surgeries to remove benign and malignant breast masses. She holds clinic at the Surgical Specialties Clinic located at 77 Nelson St. in Auburn.

“It’s exciting to bring our expertise and multidisciplinary care model to Auburn,” Dr. Sharma says. “Local breast care was something that the medical community and area residents wanted and needed. It’s important for women to have access to high-quality breast services. We’re happy to bring them to this community and look forward to expanding the program in the years to come.”

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