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Women’s Health

The Discipline

Women’s Health focuses on developing expertise in health issues that are unique to women, are more common in women, or may present differently in women. Women’s Health training programs are highly variable in focus but frequently provide more advanced expertise beyond that gained in usual internal medicine training, including:

  • In-depth understanding of the physical, psychological, social, and sexual development of adolescent and young women
  • Routine gynecologic care, including preventive counseling, breast examination and breast cancer screening, pelvic examination and cervical cancer screening
  • Family planning, including prescription of a variety of contraceptive options, preconception counseling, and post-partum care
  • Management of menstrual dysfunction
  • Evaluation of vaginitis and sexually transmitted infections in women
  • Management of issues associated with perimenopause and menopause, including hormone replacement therapy
  • Identification and management of specific psychosocial issues that disproportionately affect women, including domestic violence, sexual trauma, and post-partum depression

Many of these training experiences are interdisciplinary and provided jointly by departments of medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, and psychiatry. Because of this, some trainees may gain expertise in procedures frequently provided by other specialists such as endometrial biopsy, colposcopy, and intrauterine device (IUD) insertion. 

Training

Women’s Health training may be an option during some basic (categorical) internal medicine residency training programs, either as a separate training track during residency, as part of a primary care internal medicine residency program, or as a modification of basic residency training by focusing required and elective clinical experiences and educational activities on women’s health activities.

Multiple fellowships in Women’s Health are available for internists who have completed basic internal medicine residency training. These programs are typically 1 to 2 years in length and may provide additional training in women’s general health issues or may be more focused, such as more intensive training in cardiovascular diseases in women or developing research skills in women’s health-related issues.

There is no board-level certification in Women’s Health. Trainees completing an internal medicine residency program with a Women’s Health track or focus are eligible for certification in Internal Medicine by the American Board of Internal Medicine.

Major Professional Societies

  • Academy of Women’s Health
  • American Medical Women’s Association