Cleveland Clinic launches multispecialty center focused on midlife women

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Key takeaways:

  • Cleveland Clinic recently launched the Women’s Comprehensive Health and Research Center.
  • The center’s primary focus is on women at midlife and beyond.

Cleveland Clinic has launched a holistic health center focused exclusively on caring for midlife women, addressing a wide range of needs from osteoporosis and breast health to CVD prevention and the menopause transition.

The Women’s Comprehensive Health and Research Center focuses on four key pillars: access, connectivity, education, and research and innovation, according to Pelin Batur, MD, an OB/GYN and menopause specialist at Cleveland Clinic. The new center brings together specialty care in behavioral health, breast health, CV care, infant and maternal health, endocrinology and weight management, menopause, osteoporosis and metabolic bone density, wellness and disease prevention, and healthy aging. Additionally, the Cleveland Clinic Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement (WAM) Prevention and Research Center will expand to serve patients in Ohio.

Pelin Batur, MD, quote

“There is such a hyperfocus on the needs of reproductive-aged women, which is important and critical. But as soon as people hit midlife, we stop focusing on them,” Batur told Healio. “It is not right. So, we are bringing together all these subspecialty areas. [Midlife care] is not just menopause — it is osteoporosis, it is breast health, it is CVD, it even involves infant and maternal health and endocrinology.”

‘Designed by women, for women’

Maria Shriver, founder of the WAM Prevention and Research Center at Cleveland Clinic, will serve as chief visionary and strategic adviser of the new Women’s Comprehensive Health and Research Center.

“This is a comprehensive center offering holistic care, designed by women, for women,” Shriver told Healio in an email interview. “When a woman calls or goes online because she has a health issue, she is met not with a frustrating automated directory, but with a live, empathetic woman trained to help every woman connect to the specialists she needs to see. Plus, it is a collaborative effort in that all the care providers share information in order to come up with a personalized plan for each patient. We wanted women to feel seen and heard by every person delivering them care, and this center does exactly that.”

Batur said a key goal is to make the center accessible — patients who call can expect to hear a “live human voice,” with patient navigators who will help answer any questions they may have, no matter how small.

“Here is a simple example: Just this week I saw a patient who said, ‘I’m so sorry I was late to my appointment. I called the center and the person stayed on the phone with me while I navigated getting to the correct building.’ They provide a human approach to help with the coordination of care. It is not just about getting to the right person. It is about getting to the right place near your home. Whatever the patient’s needs, we want to meet them where they are and help them navigate their care,” Batur said.

Incorporating women’s health research

The center will also advance research specific to women in midlife.

For Shriver, this was a personal passion. “I started the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement to raise money for women-based research, and what that research kept pointing out was that women really are different from men,” Shriver told Healio. “The more I questioned and learned, the more I realized how different we are — and the greater my passion grew to better understand women’s health and our health trajectories. It turns out we know so little about women’s health because we haven’t invested in the necessary research. We don’t know why women make up 80% of autoimmune diseases or 66% of MS cases or the majority of rheumatoid arthritis cases. We don’t understand why some drugs or therapies work on men, but not on women. If you don’t fund the research, which historically our country has not done, and if you don’t include women in clinical trials, another area in which we’ve failed women, then it should come as no surprise that women’s bodies and health issues remain a mystery to medicine.”

In creating the new center, Shriver said it was important to do things no one else was doing.

“We were fortunate that Chief of Staff Beri Ridgeway, MD, was herself an accomplished obstetrician-gynecologist dedicated to improving women’s health,” Shriver told Healio. “Under her leadership and working with Dr. Batur, a medical tour de force in the field of menopause, the Cleveland Clinic Women’s Comprehensive Health and Research Center developed a process designed specifically to put women and their needs front and center. We wanted a comprehensive center that looked at women holistically, with a focus on midlife, an area of medicine long neglected. The center is forward thinking, turning women’s health from being a medical afterthought to a leading area of scientific discovery. It’s exciting.”

In addition to fostering research, Batur said big picture goals for the center include improving workflow and creating a “medical home” that better serves patients and clinicians.

“What is novel is we are listening to the voices of the patients the clinicians and the caregivers — the people often on the phone,” Batur told Healio. “We are listening to feedback from everyone to shape this program based on the needs. The center aims to foster research collaboration innovation, pulling together research expertise, and it will continue to grow and evolve as the needs of our patients grow.”

“The big goals are that we lead the way in understanding and improving women’s health, that we show the health care system that it is possible to provide women great care in innovative and sustainable ways, and that we empower women to take charge of their health early in life to prevent so many of the chronic diseases that have no cures or which hit women from midlife on,” Shriver told Healio. “Building this center is in my mind a symbol to women everywhere that their health matters, that they matter. It’s a sign of hope and belief that we can and will make progress for women’s health and therefore improve the everyday lives of women everywhere.”