April 13, 2007

Influx boosts Ob/Gyn’s clinical enterprise

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New ob/gyn faculty include, from left, Daniel Biller, M.D., Tamara Callahan, M.D., and Amy Weeks, M.D. (photo by Mary Donaldson)

Influx boosts Ob/Gyn’s clinical enterprise

As Vanderbilt's Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology grows and strengthens its focus on women's health, the addition of three faculty members has added a burst of energy to its clinical enterprise.

• Daniel Biller, M.D., has joined the department with a focus in urogynecology and pelvic reconstructive surgery;

• Tamara Callahan, M.D., comes to Vanderbilt after 17 years at Harvard with a focus in general obstetrics and gynecology and serves as the medical director of the obstetrics and gynecology practice in The Vanderbilt Clinic;

• Amy Weeks, M.D., left a longtime, successful practice in Hendersonville to focus on general obstetrics and gynecology with an emphasis on adolescent patients at Vanderbilt.

Nancy Chescheir, M.D., chair of the department, says the addition of the new faculty is critical to the mission of the department.

“The “obstetrics” piece of obstetrics and gynecology often gets the limelight. It is critical for women's health at Vanderbilt for there to be tremendous depth and strength in the “gynecology” aspects as well,” Chescheir said.

“Surgical and medical care for women is increasingly complex and sophisticated, and also requires great people skills, counseling ability and compassion. Drs. Biller, Callahan and Weeks add tremendously to the faculty in terms not only of their clinical skills, but educationally, organizationally and in their desire to improve the health of women and the multiple missions of the Medical Center and the department.”

Biller, who received his medical degree from the University of Tennessee College of Medicine, came to Vanderbilt as assistant professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology after a residency at Emory and a three-year fellowship in urogynecology and pelvic reconstructive surgery at the Cleveland Clinic Florida.

“I wanted to be in academic medicine in the Southeast. It was a great opportunity to come here and further build a urogynecology program, provide state-of-the-art patient care, conduct clinical research and start a fellowship program. Dr. Chescheir is very much on the cutting edge of the ob/gyn world and making things happen. It's a good fit being here.”

Biller's patient population includes women with combined urinary incontinence and uterine/vaginal prolapse. “These problems are very common, especially with the population aging and baby boomers hitting 65 next year. It's absolutely a growing field.”

The department is utilizing new minimally invasive techniques for vaginal surgery, with fewer complications and less pain for patients.

“It's possible to fully reconstruct the vagina in an hour and a half; it used to take three to four hours,” Biller said. “Now there is less anesthesia, less time in the OR, and fewer complications.”

Biller and his wife, Tara, have two children — Andrew, 2, and Jonah, 6 months.

Callahan, assistant professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, came to Vanderbilt from Boston, where she was a staff obstetrician/gynecologist and practice administrator at the Whittier Street Health Center and clinical instructor at Harvard. She received her medical degree from Harvard, where she also obtained a master's degree in public policy. She served her internship and residency at Harvard as well.

She is a co-author of “Blueprints in Obstetrics and Gynecology,” designed as a review book for medical students, now in its fourth edition. Callahan has also done research on the economic impact of multiple gestations.

“I'm so excited about being here,” Callahan said. “Vanderbilt has great academics; the style of life here is a little better, more family favorable. There is really an initiative put forth here to grow the academics in this department. Vanderbilt has a great reputation, but they want to build the department even more. I really wanted to be a part of that.”

As medical director of the obstetrics and gynecology practice in TVC, Callahan oversees the care of some 20,000 patients that include those in maternal-fetal medicine and high-risk obstetrics.

“I'm also excited about educating women in this practice about Gardasil (a vaccine recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration to protect women against cervical cancer).

“Before the vaccine, my practice in Boston was so full of women who had abnormal Pap smears and women who had to go through all the biopsies and procedures on the cervix, and who had to deal with all that anxiety,” she said. “Now we have a vaccine that's going to limit that burden to women, and that's fantastic. It's an exciting time to be a physician in an academic setting, to figure out how to get that information out to women.”

Callahan is married to Michael Murphy, M.D., medical director of inpatient Psychiatry at VUMC. They are the parents of two children: Jaela, 2, and Connor, 3.

Weeks, also a graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Medicine, is no stranger to Vanderbilt. She graduated from Vanderbilt and did her residency here. While part of a private practice in Hendersonville for the past 16 years, she was also a clinical instructor at VUMC.

She spends one day a week on the labor and delivery floor, but focuses on both obstetrics and gynecology and will place a heavy emphasis in her practice on the adolescent population.

“I love that patient population. I get along with them and the parents who bring them in. I like that whole interaction. But I also love teaching obstetrics on Labor and Delivery.”

Weeks, assistant professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, serves as an attending in the colposcopy clinic, treating patients with cervical dysplasia. “I really enjoy teaching in this area, too. The rules are clear. The rewards are big.”

Weeks also served as president of the Nashville Ob-Gyn Society. She and her husband, David, have two teenage daughters: Sarah, 17, and Eleanor, 14.

In one other change of focus in the department, Esther Eisenberg, M.D., professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and director of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology, has resumed the evaluation and treatment of women with infertility. Lucy Koroma, M.S.N., W.H.N.P., who recently joined the ob/gyn faculty, will help provide infertility services.

Vanderbilt's fertility practice offers a variety of infertility treatments, including ovulation induction and intrauterine insemination, but not in-vitro fertilization (IVF). However, Eisenberg said the long-term goal is to offer IVF in the future.

“We were one of the first IVF programs in the country, but stopped offering that service in the late-1990s,” Eisenberg said. “The reward in treating patients with infertility is the same reward that any doctor gets in helping patients achieve a goal — the cancer doctor who treats a patient with cancer and now they're cancer free; the surgeon who treats a patient with acute appendicitis and now the problem is gone.

“In a way, when you take care of patients, you have a problem and you have an endpoint, and the reward is getting to that endpoint and taking care of the task, of getting a baby delivered, and then you've had the outcome you were all seeking. Treating someone with infertility has a finite end, whereas treating someone with a chronic disease may not, Eisenberg said.”