“All things start with an idea. Summa has a unique connection with the community it serves, and this connection to the community has been the force sustaining the program,” said G. Dante Roulette, MD, chief of robotic surgery and OB/GYN physician with Summa Health Medical Group. This theme is shared by his colleagues, who together provide a comprehensive, robust women’s health care environment within Summa Health, all focused on a diverse Akron area and its surrounding communities
At Summa, the multidisciplinary team is able to provide nearly every form of care that women may need throughout their whole lives, rarely if ever having to refer to an outside facility, and that care encompasses a truly staggering number of services, from early female reproductive development to addiction, pregnancy, LGBTQ-specific issues, gynecologic cancer, menopause and every other health concern in between. All of this comes together in Summa Health Women’s Institute.
New Tower and Obstetrics and Gynecology
Fortunately for patients at Summa Health, the Akron campus’s new H Tower opened in May 2019. The 343,000-square-foot facility offers seven stories of beautiful, state-of-the-art treatment areas, and that extends to families welcoming their newest members. The H Tower includes a 22-bed neonatal intensive care unit, 17 labor and delivery rooms, 10 triage bays, a newborn observation room, three operating rooms and two ICU-capable rooms.
The new Tower is just one of the distinctive differences Summa offers to benefit patients, according to Edward Ferris, MD, chair of the department of obstetrics and gynecology and medical director of the Women’s Institute.
“All subspecialties for women’s health are here: maternal fetal medicine, reproductive endocrinology and infertility, urogynecology and gynecologic oncology,” he said. In addition, Summa has a robust midwifery program for pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum needs and serves as a high-quality teaching hospital for tomorrow’s OB/GYN physicians. The obstetrics and gynecology department even caters to Nepali-specific health concerns to help the large population of migrants from Nepal in Akron’s North Hill community. The program also strives to make progress on opiate addiction and high-risk zip codes.
Addiction and Pregnancy
The Women’s Institute at Summa Health provides a unique focus on high-risk pregnancies, as well, including patients who may have an addiction or substance-use disorder. Dr. Roulette works with these patients.
“I think the key is the multidisciplinary nature of the program,” he said. “The addiction and pregnancy program at Summa is recognized as one of the first to bring individuals from women’s health, addiction medicine and behavioral health into one setting. We have the capacity to provide full wrap-around services for this vulnerable population, all while providing obstetrical care.”
The addiction and pregnancy program has seen its share of success, including an increase in the average gestational age at the time of delivery, as well as cutting the NICU admissions for treatment of neonatal abstinence in half since 2016.
And it’s very much a community effort. In fact, the initial phase of the program was supported by grants from the community. “We also received significant support from the local establishment. Our program is one component of dealing with the opioid epidemic.” Roulette cites the multidisciplinary nature of the program as the key to the program’s success, as well as the support given to enrolled women. In many cases, that support continues through the first year of life for newborns.
Another service unique to Summa Health is the presence of women’s health hospitalists, who provide 24-hour in-house coverage for OB/GYN triage, as well as backup for labor and delivery. The hospitalists also supervise the 22 OB/GYN residents, as well as family practice residents and other medical students.
“The hospitalist program at Summa started in 2002,” said Alexander Ormond III, MD, chief of the women’s health hospitalist division. “We currently have both full-time and part-time hospitalists. We are in the process of expanding to five full-time hospitalists due to the number and acuity of patients. We believe that this will improve patient wait times. We expect our OB volumes to continue to grow, and we want to exceed patient expectations.”
There are some topics in gynecology that patients may find difficult or embarrassing to talk about. That’s where Christopher Rooney, MD, director of female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery, comes in.
“The fastest growing segment of the U.S. population is women over the age of 65,” he said. “The incidence of pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence is only going to continue to grow.”
For those patients, Summa Health offers comprehensive care for women who suffer from pelvic organ prolapse, urinary incontinence and pelvic pain, including conservative and/or surgical management. For surgical management, Summa embraces the latest technology and minimally invasive techniques, including vaginal, laparoscopic and robotic-assisted procedures.
But to better meet the need of the community, one must go into the community. That’s why Summa has begun providing outreach clinics.
“One of the key moves made by our division was to provide outreach clinics,” said Dr. Rooney. “These topics are sensitive and embarrassing to many, if not all women. Providing them a location closer to their homes increases their comfort level and allows that initial visit to happen in order to establish a rapport with the patient. We provide an open, welcome, non-threatening environment to discuss sensitive issues such as urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.”
The comprehensive Women’s Institute also includes cancer treatment, and Summa Health offers two board-certified gynecologic oncology specialists. Patients have access to expedited entry into the cancer program, which will see patients within 24 hours of requesting an appointment. According to Stephen Andrews, MD, chief of gynecologic oncology, patients can expect personalized care with frequent updates, both oral and written, on their prognosis.
Dr. Andrews cites the comprehensive treatment facility as one of the keys to the cancer program’s success. “I enjoy working in an up-to-date comprehensive cancer center with medical oncology, radiation oncology and ancillary support services all in one building,” he said. This gives patients an even more convenient experience at Summa Health.
The cancer program also gives patients access to clinical trials for cutting edge cancer treatments and a survivorship program to help support and encourage others who have gone through the cancer journey.
For OB/GYN physicians, providing treatment to women at all phases of their lives is an enormously rewarding experience. Many cite the excitement of being able to provide medical treatment as well as surgical treatment, a unique aspect of this particular specialty. Each was drawn to the specialty for a different reason.
For Dr. Andrews, he simply wanted to help those who were diagnosed with gynecologic cancer.
“I was initially attracted to OB/GYN because of all the diversity,” said Dr. Rooney. “It was fascinating to care for women at all phases of life. For many women, the OB/GYN is their primary care physician, making us their gatekeeper to the medical world. That is an enormous responsibility.”
For Dr. Roulette, the primary motivator was making a difference. “My key driver was finding a specialty where I was able to make a lasting impact on the health of the community,” he said. “There is no better way to do that than to optimize how people enter the community, and to care for those who bring new life into our community. I get to care for a group of individuals as they transition through the various stages of life. There is no higher honor.”
“It’s been a joy to develop lifelong relationships with patients,” said Dr. Ferris. “From menarche to menopause, as an OB/GYN physician, we have the privilege of taking care of patients for most of their lives.”
Dr. Ormond was first drawn to OB/GYN because it combines primary care and surgery, and because, as he says, “delivering babies is a lot of fun.”
Whatever the need, the Women’s Institute at Summa Health stands ready to provide any service to any woman in need of care. Whether it’s family planning, puberty, addiction, pregnancy, incontinence issues, a cancer diagnosis or something else, the OB/GYN physicians at Summa can provide the care needed, and they love the work they do and the community they care for.