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Kudos on the Annual Women’s Health Week Service Day

October 27, 2009

So often in topics of women’s health and reproductive rights the things I’m compelled to write about are the negatives, the bad news, the absolute outrages. Today I want to take a moment to give kudos to some individuals who are taking actions to make a difference. I mentioned in the previous post that it’s Women’s Health Week at Vanderbilt (my larger workplace). I learned, at the event I attended, that the week will cap off with a day of service at the Shade Tree Clinic in Nashville, and think this effort from Vanderbilt medical students and their supporters deserves recognition. Note that they are still looking for additional Vanderbilt ob/gyn residents and attendings to volunteer, so if you’re able and qualified, see the contact information at the end of the post.

I received the following description of the project from the organizers:

On Saturday, October 31st from 12 noon – 4pm, we’ll be holding our Annual Women’s Health Week Service Day at the Shade Tree Clinic ( We are busing women in from local homeless and domestic violence shelters. They will receive Pap smears, STD testing, HIV testing, contraceptive counseling, and colposcopies. Social workers, childcare and Spanish interpretation will also be available.

Typically when a woman comes to her ob/gyn for her annual pelvic exam, she woman receives a Pap smear, the smear is read within a few days. If any abnormal cells are found on the smear, she comes back to her physician for a colposcopy. A colposcopy uses various dyes and an endoscope to examine the cervix for cancerous and precancerous cells. If the colposcopy finds anything abnormal or that appears potentially cancerous, the cervix is biopsied.

Our population of patients is at a higher risk for being infected HPV and for developing cervical cancer, because they have higher rates of smoking, higher rates of infections with other STDs, usually have a poor diet, and are living in poverty (see: Our patients also have limited access to transportation and healthcare, so we wanted to reduce the number of follow up visits needed. We are going to combine the first two steps, and provide both Pap smears and colposcopies for them on Saturday.

This element of the project was inspired by a group at the University of California, Irvine. This group screened a population of high risk Hispanic immigrants and had their Pap smears read the same day. They then performed colposcopies and biopsies for the women who had abnormal cells.

We are incredibly excited to have a group of medical students and ob/gyn physicians and nurse practitioners to help us out with this project. We are also looking for more Vanderbilt ob/gyn residents and attendings to help us out, so they should feel free to email me at if they would like to volunteer.

For more information on the week’s events in general, check out the Women’s Health Week blog at

Can you tell I’ve been impressed with these folks and the week they’ve organized?

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