Empowering Women by Expanding Their Health Care Options

Mentoring the next generation of healthcare professionals

“I don’t feel well,” says a woman after delivering a baby, which the health care team may regard as a typical sign of discomfort post-labor. However, it also can translate to undetected infection [1]. In fact, a woman reporting pain after surgery is more likely to be given sedatives instead of painkillers than a man, and this stereotype towards women and pain can lead to serious physical consequences [2]. Dr. Gloria Bachmann, Interim Chair and Associate Dean for Women's Health at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, researches many medical issues that women face, including menopause, chronic pain, vulvodynia (chronic pain in the lower pelvic area), and vaginal health, not only to provide interventions that women can use to treat medical and sexual conditions or concerns, but also to train the  next generation of healthcare providers. She also is passionate about giving women a voice in their health care. Moreover, Dr. Bachmann’s research is nationally and globally renowned, ultimately encouraging further research in areas that have not been thoroughly explored before.

Author of 200 articles and chapters in the medical literature and a member of the editorial board of several medical journals, Dr. Bachmann has already made significant contributions to women’s health research. With the North American Menopause Society, she helped change the nomenclature of a negative term “urogenital atrophy,” now called “genitourinary syndrome of menopause,” in which atrophy is used to describe the woman’s pelvic organs (changes in the vagina due to declining estrogen levels). With other national committees, she also helped change the criteria for defining vulvodynia. She and her research group were also the first to publish the vaginal health index that is used in many clinical trials. Studying issues around pain, menopausal hormonal therapy, consequences of breast cancer, vaginal health and hot flashes, Dr. Bachmann develops many programs to expand women’s options, empower women, and promote STEM disciplines for women while at the same time raising the next generation of researchers.

Current research aims:

  • Empowerment of Women: In the “Stop, Look, and Listen” campaign recently launched, Dr. Bachmann and her team, encourage women to be assertive in seeking treatment during the pregnancy process. For example, instead of a new mom stating she does not “feel well,”and have it attributed by the medical team to just having had a baby,  women should voice that they “need to be checked for infection, etc.” and should not accept the explanation that they just had a baby.
  • Medical Treatment instead of Surgical Treatment: Many advances are being made that can prevent women from avoiding major surgeries or debilitating illnesses. For example, Dr. Bachmann has done research in the area of non-surgical options for uterine fibroids. For example, Dr. Bachmann was one of the original researchers studying uterine artery embolization as an alternative to hysterectomy for the control of heavy menses and bladder pressure. Recently she and her team also took part in a multicenter research trial that examined a pharmacologic option for symptomatic fibroids. By researching fibroid management options,such as uterine artery embolization, Dr. Bachmann and her team contributed to replacing long and difficult surgery with a one-day alternative procedure.
  • Chronic Pain: Pain is elusive, relative and therefore hard to quantify. In order to present more effective options for women, Dr. Bachmann works both nationally and internationally with many other experts in pain to categorize pain in regards to the organ systems that are involved and best ways to manage the pain. She is currently finishing a multicenter NIH sponsored research trial in the area of vulvodynia (chronic pain in the lower pelvic area) with two other universities, the University of Tennessee and the University of Rochester. As pain also affects a woman in terms of mental health, increasing levels of depression and sexual dysfunction may result. Dr. Bachmann approaches pain from a comprehensive point of view to determine all the sources of pain and develop both preventative and interventive measures.
  • Healthy Aging: When Dr. Bachmann first started exploring menopause, the concept of menopause was one that promoted it as a time in the woman’s life when she was the end of her reproductive life and had entered into the stage of being old and asexual. Since then, Dr. Bachmann has made significant findings in this area and continues to study many aspects of it, including the vaginal changes that occur. She has contributed to changing the concept of menopause as a negative one to one that  is perceived by both women and men as a positive and natural life event that does not translate into poor health or sexual dysfunction.

Bio

Dr. Gloria Bachmann is Professor of OB/GYN & Reproductive Sciences, Interim Chair at the Department of OB/GYN, and Associate Dean of Women’s Health Institute at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. She received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Middlesex County (NJ) Commission On The Status of Women in 1995 and the President's Community Service Award from the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2001-2002. She was recognized by the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and the Women's Health & Counseling Center for her efforts in advancing healthcare in 2000, and since then, she has received many other awards including the Women Helping Women Award of Excellence in 2004. She is also the author of more than 200 articles and chapters in medical literature, and is a member of the editorial board of several medical journals.

Caring, unwavering support, 24/7 mentoring, and 'paying it forward' were just some of the many remarkable characteristics Dr. Bachmann was fortunate to have experienced while working under Dr. Helen Dickens as both a medical student and a resident at the University of Pennsylvania. Learning from one of the pioneers who trail-blazed the way for future generations of women in medicine has inspired Dr. Bachmann to live by this example. The pearls of professional and personal life that she has taken into her own obstetric and gynecologic career include a strong commitment to the education of learners and colleagues, the promotion of a team approach to patient care, the support of research that bridges basic scientists with clinicians, and the priority of making continued involvement in education.

At Rutgers, Dr. Bachmann has had an impact on these pillars through her position as Associate Dean for Women’s Health and the Director of the Women’s Health Institute. Through the Rutgers Master Educators’ Guild, she has also had the opportunity to work with all of the healthcare disciplines at Rutgers, including physicians, dentists, nurses, midwives, and physician assistants. Most importantly, having a clinical practice and interfacing with women from all walks of life is a privilege, as she is not only able to assist women in both preventive and interventive care, but she will also learn from them about the healthcare concerns that are prevalent in the community of women from all walks of life.

Outside of research, Dr. Bachmann collects dollhouses. Her first dollhouse was one that her father had built for her, and the ultimate dollhouse that she has currently was made specifically for her at the time her son was born 24 years ago. This is the one that she continues to decorate and change with the seasons, enjoying the total decorating ability without “having to paint walls or move pieces furniture.” She is also the proud parent of a son who was a cheerleader in college, even though it is often viewed as a “female sport.” She is very proud that her son was able to embrace this sport, having been a gymnast and trampolinist throughout his middle and high school years. In college, banking on his skills as a trampolinist, he was one of the squad’s fliers. From these experiences, she has become very involved in cheerleading, now one of her favorite sports to watch and support. She is also very much “wowed” by the spirit of other college athletes, particularly basketball.

For more information, visit http://umg.umdnj.edu/public/directory/doctor2.asp?doctor=793392168

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Awards

Designation of Local Legend from New Jersey, 2004

American Medical Women’s Association: Library of Medicine

Faculty honoree, 2005

Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson AOA Honor Society

Celebrating America’s Women Physicians-New Jersey local legend designation, 2006

Induction into the Library of Medicine

President, 2009-2010

Master Educators’ Guild University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (now Rutgers)

Leaders in Medicine Award, 2011

American Medical Student Association: Raising our Voices - Women