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Adolescent gynecology 101

August 20, 2012

At Women’s College Hospital (WCH), we see patients of all ages and strive to ensure that their individual needs are met. The gynecological needs of young women differ greatly from those of women of other ages and the approach to treat young women needs to reflect the differences. That’s why, when Dr. Lisa Allen, site chief of gynecology, and Dr. Yolanda Kirkham, OB/GYN in the gynecology clinic, saw a gap between pediatric care and adult gynecology care, they created a program specifically designed to help younger women. This unique clinic fills this gap and helps women get the guidance they need for what can be an overwhelming experience during a time of transition.

The clinic – in its first month – is dedicated to providing gynecological care for young women between the ages of 17 and 21. It offers a welcoming environment that supports women who are:

  • transitioning from pediatric care
  • attending their first appointments without parents
  • receiving medical or surgical care for gynecologic problems

Primary focuses of the clinic are menstrual irregularities, dysmenorrhea, as well as conditions requiring day surgery such as ovarian cysts and endometriosis.

“It’s an important time to provide good care for these young women in a setting that’s devoted entirely to them,” said Dr. Kirkham, who has subspecialty fellowship training in pediatric and adolescent gynecology.

The age group was chosen because it is a period of transition for many women. Some may be moving away for school, others are leaving home for the first time and all are transitioning from adolescence to adulthood. The Young Women’s Gynecology Clinic captures this population early and offers positive experiences that encourage their future involvement in medical care.

Every Thursday from 1 – 3:30 p.m. the gynecology clinic at WCH is transitioned from an adult clinic into a more adolescent-friendly environment, equipped with Wi-Fi access, informational posters and hand- outs. 

“We are committed to making the area as welcoming as we can for the young women who come to our clinic,” said Dr. Kirkham. “It’s not just the physical changes we make, but the way we communicate with them and build rapport from the start.”

Patient care is individualized. Dr. Kirkham and the nursing staff communicate with the patients, provide them with educational support by discussing how to treat and manage their conditions, and counsel regarding prevention and risk-minimizing strategies.

What’s more, when these young women are over 21, they can continue visiting Dr. Kirkham at the Gynecology Clinic, which provides continued care and accessible service for adults. The clinic is accepting new patients with referrals and is reaching out to college and university students, young women’s shelters and at-risk youth. While getting an appointment with a gynecologist can take anywhere from three to eight months, the Young Women’s Gynecology Clinic is able to accommodate patients and has a short referral to appointment time.  

In the future, Dr. Kirkham hopes to extend the hours of the clinic and even ramp up the technological factor. “We want to appeal to our younger audience and this means being tech-savvy, participating in online forums and eventually even appointment reminders via text,” said Dr. Kirkham. “These young women already have a very strong online presence and we want to provide them with the information they need through platforms they’re already comfortable with.” 

Dr. Yolanda Kirkham 


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