This fall, the Center for Women’s Health at Oregon Health & Science University welcomed its first medical resident invited from out of state to receive specialized training in abortion care.
The doctor-in-training, who remains anonymous for security reasons, was unable to attend training under his own obstetrics and gynecology residency program, due to a nationwide abortion ban. of the state – which puts her and her establishment at risk of being charged with a crime.
Her training at OHSU was sponsored by the Abortion Care and Education Fund, or ACT Fund, which helps ensure the next generation of clinicians know how to provide essential reproductive health services.
As many states crack down on reproductive health care with restrictive laws, resident physicians across the country pursuing careers in obstetrics and gynecology are no longer able to get the necessary education and training in their own state. . This dangerous new reality has led OHSU to run a unique program, supported by the ACT Fund, that allows out-of-state residents to receive education and training about abortion care in Oregon. from the OHSU family planning team.
While at OHSU, visiting residents gain hands-on experience with various procedures and surgeries and learn how to effectively counsel diverse patient populations so they are able to make well-informed, informed decisions regarding sexual and reproductive health. of their patients.
“It’s a really scary reality we live in,” said Alyssa Colwill, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the OHSU School of Medicine, who directs the OB/GYN Ryan residency program at OHSU, which teaches medical fellows, residents, and students about complex contraception and abortion care. “If medical students and residents aren’t able to learn these skills — which should be considered very basic routine practice — they won’t be able to care for patients well. This goes far beyond just states banning abortion; it is truly a threat to women’s health care everywhere.
OHSU is committed to providing the full continuum of sexual and reproductive health care – including abortion – to all who seek it. Colwill emphasizes how critical it is to educate the next generation of clinicians. It also recognizes the increased responsibility of OHSU, along with other Oregon reproductive healthcare providers, to ensure that people out of state can also access the essential care they need.
New reality for obstetrics and gynecology residents
Abortion bans have been a significant setback for residents who have worked for years to pursue careers in medicine, and specifically in women’s health.
“When I learned that Roe vs. Wade fell, I was horrified,” the visiting resident said. “I always wanted to be a doctor. As a woman, I felt my bodily rights were taken away from me, as well as my career. My path changed overnight.
While she is grateful that OHSU created the program and the opportunity, she notes that it was difficult to get there, both logistically and emotionally.
“Unfortunately, the biggest feeling I had around this opportunity was fear,” she said. “I worry about jeopardizing my own residency position, jeopardizing my institution’s funding, or jeopardizing my colleagues and their opportunity to do something like this in the future.”
Despite the challenges of getting to OHSU and the inherent risk of attending the program, the resident says the training exceeded her expectations and provided her with a welcome respite from the harsh new reality of sexual and reproductive health care. in the USA.
“I feel like OHSU is such an oasis for patients who want and need this care,” she said. “It’s a refreshing prospect to be in a place without judgment and with such strong support around this kind of healthcare.”
The ACT Fund is made possible through community support and philanthropy. The funding supports and provides continuing education opportunities for clinicians and dedicated OHSU advocates, especially those practicing in states where training has or will be prohibited or restricted. The opportunity to learn at OHSU also gives hope to many future medical professionals who simply want to make a difference in the lives of others.
“Despite the tough battle we are fighting, I am motivated and want to make a difference in the situation,” the resident said. “Although it will be immensely more difficult now, I am more motivated than ever to pursue a path in women’s health.”