Over 20 years ago, Newton Medical Center became home to Associates in Women’s Health (AWH). For Dr. Kent Bradley, serving as an obstetrician or gynecologist in a small or rural community is a calling.
“It’s not for everyone,” says Dr. Bradley. “Sometimes, it’s really hard work, and it’s not a job where you can tell your patient you’ll see her at 9 in the morning, you have to be available when she needs you.”
Fortunately for the women in and around Newton, the fulfillment of the calling far outweighs any disadvantage for Dr. Bradley and his physician colleagues at AWH, and they thrive on hard work. The practice, originally formed in Newton before transitioning into a branch of a Wichita-based practice, recently celebrated their 20th anniversary. This is an especially impressive feat in a specialty struggling with a nationwide shortage of practitioners, particularly in non-urban and rural areas similar to Newton.
According to an article in The Rural Blog, nearly half—46 percent—of the nation’s counties, most of them rural, lack obstetrician/gynecologists. In fact, only about 6 percent of the nation’s OB/GYNs work in rural areas, according to the latest survey numbers from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). The numbers show no signs of getting better, with the ACOG projecting the OB/GYN shortage to reach 6,000 to 8,800 by 2020 and possibly 22,000 by 2050. The state of Kansas, says Dr. Bradley, produces only nine OB/GYNs each year.
The reasons for the shortage vary; however, the impact is the same—communities without the specialized care that women often need, especially in high-risk pregnancy situations. In many communities, family practitioners serve as the women’s health care provider; but women sometimes have unique needs—complicated pregnancy or gynecologic cases—that OB/GYNs are specially trained to meet, says Dr. Brenda Harkins.
“The days of going to one doctor for everything are over,” says Dr. Harkins. “There is too much knowledge out there for one doctor to be good at everything. We specialize in women’s health, and we partner with other physicians when our patients need other kinds of care.”
Although Newton is technically considered “rural,” it offers a unique environment in which patients have access to specialty care from physicians who live and practice in the community, such as the AWH specialists.
The practice, with its board-certified physicians and two mid-level providers practicing almost exclusively in Newton, covers all areas of women’s health; routine and high-risk obstetrics, gynecology and well woman services, adolescent gynecology, family planning and contraceptive counseling, infertility treatments, post-menopausal medicine, and surgeries including laparoscopic and robotic. The practice even offers access to highly-specialized female medicine such as gynecologic oncology, urogynecology and maternal-fetal medicine. Because there are multiple physicians in the location, there is always a physician on call and available to the women of the community.
Complementing the available women’s specialty care are the many services available through Newton Medical Center—an advanced labor and delivery facility, Level 2 NICU and even the cutting-edge da Vinci Robotic Surgery system.
“Our goal is to foster the health and wellness of those who live and work in our community, and when possible, ensure they receive the care they need without having to travel,” says Val Gleason, president & CEO of Newton Medical Center. “We’re able to do that because of local specialists like Associates in Women’s Health and the technology and services we offer at NMC. We’re very proud to meet the needs of the community.”
“Newton Medical Center is a very good small community hospital, and we have a great relationship with the staff,” adds Dr. Emily Webb. “Although there are sometimes medical issues we can’t and shouldn’t manage here, we are able to provide the level of care our patients need in most cases. The ability to stay in the community to receive great care is something our patients appreciate.”
For women of all ages in the Newton community, this means the comfort of home and the assurance of quality, advanced care—truly, the best of both worlds.