Fifteen years ago, Holly Thacker, M.D., came to The Cleveland Clinic to specialize in cardiology – until she learned that treating hearts had more to do with gender-based biology than she thought. She became fascinated with the field of menopause while rotating with now-retired Clinic gynecologist Delbert Booher, M.D.
Holly Thacker, M.D.
"While studying heart disease, I observed how women and men displayed different symptoms and responded differently to medications. Gender, life-cycle stage, and risk factor assessment are at the core of disease prevention," says Dr. Thacker, now director of the Women’s Health Center at the Clinic. "I found that heart disease in women was not well studied from a hormonal perspective, and thatís when I realized the value of interdisciplinary medicine, particularly for women."
That interest, coupled with her respect for Joseph P. Crowe, M.D., who founded the Clinic’s multidisciplinary Breast Center, is what sparked Dr. Thacker’s vision for the Women’s Health Center, designed to provide comprehensive specialty care for women at one location. Now two years old, the center is located at the Flo and Stanley Gault Women’s Health and Breast Pavilion in the Crile building on the Clinic’s main campus, and last year alone served more than 20,000 women.
The center has drawn international attention, too, with physicians from Israel, Canada and Saudi Arabia visiting to find out how they could set up similar women’s health facilities in their countries.
An Interdisciplinary Approach
Caring for patients at the Women’s Health Center is a group effort. Pictured from the Center are (front row, l to r) Victoria Klein-Olarte, NP; Carolyn Nemec, MD; Jay Listinsky, MD; (back row) Mary McDonnell, RN; Holly Thacker, MD; Alice Rim, MD; and Jill Badger, administrator.
What sets the Women’s Health Center apart from many women’s clinics is its interdisciplinary approach, in which physicians with different medical specialties, nurses and other allied health professionals collaborate on patient care. Women can come to the center for menstrual, breast and hormonal concerns, and other conditions specific to women and receive a complete menu of services, from consultation to imaging, to outpatient surgical procedures – all custom-designed for the individual.
"I practiced in a women’s health center in New York City before coming to Cleveland last year and I find the center here more comprehensive," says Elizabeth Ricanati, M.D., a woman’s health specialist. "I recently diagnosed an abnormality during one of my patient’s exams, and she was immediately taken to a procedure room down the hall for a diagnostic test. There was no need for scheduling and waiting. When resources are in one place, it’s much easier for physicians and patients."
The center is pleased to have a new state-of-the-art breast imaging machine.
Physicians from the Clinic’s Breast Center, Internal Medicine, Gynecology and Psychiatry converge at the Women’s Health Center, some working only at the center, while others rotate in from other offices one to two days a week.
In addition to standard health screenings and consultations, the center handles cross-disciplinary issues and special concerns. Often these physical concerns can lead to psychological issues and the center is there to help with that, too.
"For those women who struggle with mood disorders related to their hormonal cycle, this is the place to get the best treatment," says psychiatrist Lilian Gonsalves, M.D. "Common problems we see here include anxiety and mood disorders, and we use a combination of medications, psychotherapy and stress management to treat patients."
|The center handles cross-disciplinary issues and special concerns such as:
- finding a breast lump while breastfeeding
- hormonal and menstrual disorders
- chronic pelvic pain
- urinary incontinence
- severe PMS
- heart disease prevention
- breast cancer risk
- osteoporosis prevention and treatment
Clinic Care Plus In addition to interdisciplinary treatment, the Women’s Health Center is one of the first areas to offer Clinic Care Plus – shared medical appointments for 10 to 15 women with their physician and a womenís health social worker or health psychologist. Rather than the standard 10- to 15-minute one-on-one appointment scheduled weeks to months in advance, women can spend up to 90 minutes with their physician for follow-up care along with other women who have similar health issues.
Women’s Health Center physicians host their Clinic Care Plus appointments at set times each week. Women may also opt to have a private exam first and attend a shared visit that same day. Analysis of patient satisfaction scores shows that many prefer shared medical appointments to individual appointments; in fact, women who shared appointments showed an 85 percent reschedule rate.
We are the premier interdisciplinary women’s health center
in the region," says Dr. Thacker. "Our goal is to be the premier model,
nationally and internationally, for interdisciplinary women's health
care and education." So far, so good. The women’s health center serves
tens of thousands of women and hosts numerous international tours and
educational summits for physicians.