Fall 2023 Letter from Chair of OB/GYN, Dr. Barbara Goff
As we start a new academic year, I am enthusiastic about our department’s new faculty and trainees. In addition to our residency, we now have fellowships in Gynecologic Oncology, Maternal Fetal Medicine, Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility and Complex Family Planning. As educators who train the next generation of women’s health care experts, we understand the importance of our students, residents and fellows to elevate our ability to perform cutting-edge research and patient care.
As you know, the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision last year reversed a nearly 50-year precedent established by Roe v. Wade. This ruling fundamentally changed how we deliver critical reproductive health services and deliver education across the WWAMI region. Putting reproductive rights in the hands of state governments directly impacted our department, but I am proud of the work being done to maintain as many options as possible for our patients and educational opportunities for our trainees.
Each state’s newly enacted laws impose different restrictions, ranging from orders that prevent physicians from discussing abortion to limitations placed on available birth control methods. Fortunately, Washington state remains supportive of women’s reproductive rights, and our department continues to safeguard women’s health. As a result, our Washington campuses have seen a 30% increase in patients who must travel to receive vital reproductive healthcare. We have also started telehealth service to improve access within our state. This is a fluid situation in our region, and we navigate these waters daily.
Our department continues to make extraordinary strides in advancing women’s health. Through research, we’re expanding our toolbox for treating gynecologic malignancies. We can now deliver toxic payloads to ovarian, cervical and breast cancer tumors with new antibody-drug conjugates. And with advances in immunotherapies, we can leverage a patient’s own immune system to combat endometrial and cervical cancers. Perhaps our most exciting research explores mucosal immunity to prevent the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. We have numerous clinical trials to provide patients with access to novel treatments and prevention strategies.
But more than research alone differentiates our program and makes us a destination for quality care. We’ve moved beyond a focus on bench research to become a translational medicine department, incorporating our findings into the highest level of clinical care available. UW Medicine values providing access to equitable healthcare. Principal investigator Kemi Doll, MD, extends this priority through The GRACE Center, which pairs research and community engagement to improve treatment options and outcomes for women in marginalized groups facing gynecologic cancers.
Our advancements put UW Medicine Obstetrics & Gynecology at the forefront of women’s health nationwide. As trailblazers in fetal therapy and surgery, our faculty members explore safe maternal vaccination methods to provide in-utero virus protection. And we have the expertise to conduct advanced procedures that meet complex fetal needs, including endoscopic laser ablation for twin transfusion syndrome and the ex utero intrapartum treatment (EXIT) procedure for complicated respiratory problems. We also plan to launch a neural tube defect program in the coming months.
As our department grows (now 138 faculty) and becomes more diverse with an influx of new faculty and trainees who bring new ideas and perspectives, we see accelerated discovery and advances in patient care. With so much on the horizon, I feel hopeful about the coming improvements in women’s health and the role UW Medicine will play in that future.
Barbara A. Goff, MD
Professor and Chair, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology
Surgeon-in-Chief, University of Washington Medical Center