From the chair

Dr. Susan M. LemagieSusan M. Lemagie, MD

Congratulations to ACOG Fellow Robert M. Wah, MD, who was elected president-elect of the American Medical Association (AMA) in June. Dr. Wah is a nationally recognized expert in health information technology. He currently serves as chief medical officer for Computer Sciences Corporation, where he works with public and private agencies using technology to improve health care. He also teaches and sees patients at Walter Reed National Military Center in Bethesda, MD, and at the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Wah will serve as president-elect for one year and be sworn in as AMA president in June 2014. Born and raised in Oregon, Dr. Wah graduated from the University of Oregon and received his medical degree from the Oregon Health Sciences University. Dr. Wah is a strong advocate for women’s health and an honorary member of District VIII! 

The AMA works closely with ACOG on women’s health issues, such as supporting federal funding for research on perinatal and postpartum depression, enhancing maternal mortality review at the state level, and lobbying against shackling incarcerated pregnant women in labor. ACOG currently has one of the largest groups in the AMA House of Delegates. By joining the AMA and selecting ACOG as your medical specialty society, you can help us continue to have a strong and united voice for our patients.

HPV vaccination controversies
Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination has been in the news a lot recently, with studies showing HPV infection decreasing by half in girls ages 14 to 19 since the HPV vaccine has been available. This is great news, and we in medicine celebrate it. However, parents’ fears seem to be increasing, and fewer girls are being vaccinated. According to a study published in Pediatrics in April, almost 44% of parents say they do not intend to have their children receive the vaccine.

Why are parents refusing what we regard as a no-brainer? We know the HPV vaccine is safe and effective at preventing cancer. However, there is a lot of misinformation out there claiming that the vaccine has never been shown to prevent cervical cancer, that it causes significant health problems, and that it’s safer to just get Pap smears. Outlets relaying this information also tend to caution that the media and doctors are just trying to sell vaccines for big corporations and that the National Institutes of Health receives royalties from the sale of the vaccine. 

The Japanese Ministry of Health stopped recommending the vaccine in mid-June due to large numbers of vaccinated girls complaining of long-lasting pain and numbness. Complex regional pain syndrome has rarely been linked to immunizations in the US. Other countries have sited conversion disorder, when signs and symptoms appear with no underlying physical cause, or mass hysteria as possible explanations for large numbers of girls experiencing vaccination side effects.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) addressed Japan’s action during its telebriefing on HPV prevalence in June, when a medical epidemiologist from the CDC immunization safety office stated the CDC has not established that the vaccine has caused any serious adverse events.

We need to be aware of this type of information, so we can answer our patients’ and their parents’ questions. Has anyone found a good response to those who refuse the vaccine? The authors of the Pediatrics study encourage doctors to stress the immunization’s efficacy and safety. The National Cancer Institute has a tutorial on the HPV vaccine that may be helpful.

Grand Wailea2013 ADM
I am looking forward to a successful Annual District Meeting at the Grand Wailea in Maui, HI, September 26–28. I hope you will join us!

If you’d like to participate in the “Dancing with the Docs” competition, please let me know. District VIII Junior Fellows won the mirror ball trophy last year, but I hear we will have some competition from Districts V, VI, and IX.

Awards and honors
‘Tis the season to start thinking about applying for ACOG awards. The Council of District Chairs (CDC) Service Recognition Award is given to districts and sections in recognition of outstanding activities contributed to the field of ob-gyn. The Alberta Section won in 2010 for its safer birth practices initiative, and the Oregon Section won in 2009 for its medical student recruitment efforts. If your section has a project you’d like to submit for the award, contact Stephanie Williams at 202-863-2588 or for more information. The deadline for submissions this year is November 30.

Deadlines for other awards, including the Pete and Weesie Hollis Community Service Award, the ACOG Award for International Service, and the Arthur P. Gold Foundation Humanism in Medicine Award (a new award for practicing physicians who demonstrate compassion and respectful care for a patient’s physical and emotional wellbeing) are on the ACOG website. These awards are presented at the Annual Clinical Meeting.

The State Legislative Advocacy Awards (one for accomplishment and one for improvement) and the new ACOG Junior Fellow Rising Star in Advocacy Award are presented at the Congressional Leadership Conference, The President’s Conference.

Remember, we can’t win unless we have nominees, and self-nominations are accepted! Recognition is a powerful motivator.