ACOG Frontline Voices |

If Not Us, Then Who?

Four women participate in a panel discussion on stage during a conference.

When I was practicing as a board-certified obstetrician–gynecologist, I felt confident about my diagnostic, management, and patient care skills. I felt extremely well trained as a surgeon and well prepared when dealing with a wide range of issues including STIs, contraception, cancer screening, and management of pregnancy. However, in my eighth year of practice, it became apparent to me that there was a huge gap in my abilities: caring for women with sexual health concerns. My patients were turning to me for help with issues such as low desire, trouble with arousal, and orgasm, and I had no idea how to help them.

It wasn’t long before I learned that more than 43% of women have a sexual health concern. Most of us—the women’s health experts—have not received this training, leaving our patients feeling isolated and hopeless, with no choice but to turn to unfounded resources out of desperation.

I found myself at a crossroads: weighing the safe decision to stay in practice versus a seemingly irrational decision to take on the unknown role of advocacy and leadership in this area of women’s health. When I looked around, the others purporting innovation in this field were supplement brands without data and luxury brands selling yoni eggs. As a physician, I felt the obligation to step into the conversation with an evidence-based and patient-centered approach—so I founded a company to do just that. In the last few years, my company has helped more than 250,000 women, garnered the support of more than 3,900 obstetrician–gynecologist generalists and subspecialists in the United States, and shared our original research findings at numerous conferences, including ACOG’s Annual Clinical & Scientific Meeting.

This journey, while completely off-script and scary, has led to the most fulfilling part of my career. As I survey other women’s health companies in the space, I cannot help but think that there needs to be a physician leader or founder at the helm of every single one of them. If we as physicians don’t actively engage in new beginnings for women’s health, the discontent among patients and physicians alike will continue to grow. We owe it to ourselves, to our patients, and to medicine as a whole to shape the future of women’s health into what we want it to be: one that is responsible to the data and to the patients we so deeply care about.

Physicians are often discouraged from entrepreneurship and innovation by people using phrases like “abandoning our duty to patients” and “selling out.” Nothing could be further from the truth. I would argue that we are in fact abandoning our patients if we do not engage in the innovation of the future of their health. We should encourage physicians to attend to their clinical creativity, foster leadership inside and outside of the hospital, and change the narrative about involvement in entrepreneurship and innovation. We need to find a path forward to support these efforts and the mindset needed to successfully navigate the many challenges ahead. Women’s health innovation needs obstetrician–gynecologists, and our patients need the innovations that lie within us.

Lyndsey Harper, MD, FACOG, is an affiliated associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology for Texas A&M College of Medicine and a fellow of the International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health. She currently practices as an obstetrician–gynecologist hospitalist at Baylor Scott & White Health in Dallas and as a sexual medicine specialist at Rosy Telehealth. Dr. Harper is the founder and CEO of Rosy, a women’s health technology company that connects women who have sexual health concerns with hope, community, and research-backed solutions.

Disclaimer: The thoughts and opinions in the Frontline Voices initiative reflect experiences of individual ACOG members and do not represent official organizational opinions of ACOG.