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June 22, 2015

Hundreds Gather for ‘The State of Women’s Health’ – Main Line Times

The Birth Center in Bryn Mawr had a great coming-out party for their new brand: “LifeCycle  WomanCare.” The Union League was the venue that executive director Kathryn Boockvar, J.D., had chosen for their major conference, “The State of Women’s Health.” The breakfast event attracted hundreds of providers of women’s care, and an impressive list of sponsors, including accounting firms like Shechtman Marks Devor PC, the Maternity Care Coalition, and a long list of professional, business and medical groups, with Bryn Mawr Hospital as the lead sponsor.

LifeCycle WomanCare is one of the oldest free-standing birth centers in the country, founded in 1978. They offer a lot of other services besides delivering babies, and the care they provide covers a woman’s entire lifetime, from adolescence through post-menopausal years.

If you watch “Call the Midwife,” the wonderful period piece on PBS, you get a pretty good idea of what the midwife offers to her patients.

Boockvar’s timing for this initial conference was impeccable. She had invited as keynote speaker Dr. Rachel Levine, the highest ranking transgender official in the history of Pennsylvania, and the state Senate had confirmed her as Physician General the night before the conference.

By coincidence, the Caitlyn Jenner-Vanity Fair cover was set to appear on newstands the same day as the conference. And the Philadelphia Department of Health had just issued an alarming report by the Philadelphia Maternal Mortality Review [MMR], citing maternal mortality rates in Philadelphia as more than 50 percent above the national average. The team studied a three year period between 2010 and 2012, when about 69,000 live births occurred in the city, finding that 55 women died within one year of the end of their pregnancy.

Boockvar put together a lot of talented and very smart women for a panel discussion to follow Dr. Levin’s keynote address. And those who carry smartphones were encouraged to sign in on (whatever that is) and post questions, vote for items which are the most important issues for us to address. Everything was flashed on giant screens on each side of the stage, and insurance reimbursement kept coming up as a major concern. Addiction to pain pills was another issue which was prominent.

Dr. Valerie Arkoosh, vice chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, was one of the panelists who urged us to work for policy changes, observing that women do not have equal status with men in our community.

Dr. Lois Evans, professor emerita of nursing at Penn Medicine, expressed her concern that very few physicians have training in dealing with elderly patients. She pointed out that there is a close association between physical and mental health.

Dr. Levine delivered some very important messages, on behalf of Governor Tom Wolf. She reminded us of Governor Wolf’s three campaign themes, which he is busy trying to implement: schools that teach, jobs that pay, and government that works. When she talked about the governor’s having accepted and implemented Medicaid expansion, there was great applause from the large audience.

Addiction problems, particularly opioids, are a growing problem, especially among women. She urged providers, as well as families with an addicted member, to have Narcan, the antidote to drug overdose, available, not just for the first responders, in order to avoid many deaths.

When responses from the audience were flashed on the screen, the question, “What are some of the most important health care issues?” poverty and income inequality were two of the top contenders.

One of the panelists, Brenda Shelton-Dunston of the Black Women’s Health Alliance, told us that stress is something that affects both physical and mental health, especially among young women, yet stress is not a category that is included in questionnaires.

And Dr. Levine pointed out that Lancaster County, the fastest growing county in the state, has a significant lack of psychiatrists and not a single child psychiatrist.

Although she did not make it her top priority, Dr. Levine also pointed out that even though the city of Philadelphia had anti-discrimination laws which protects gays, lesbians, bi-sexual and transgender people, this is not the law of the land, or the law of the state of Pennsylvania. This is another issue she will be working on as Physician General, in tandem with the Secretary of Health and Governor Tom Wolf.

Boockvar knows that political action can often move legislators to improving public policy, and the attendees at “The State of Women’s Health” were urged to visit, write to, telephone and email their elected officials to get them to do the right thing. And to step up and run for office, as Boockvar had once done.

The younger women in the audience, some of whom had brought along their infants who were born at LifeCycle WomanCare, paid close attention. You can expect to hear a lot more from LifeCycle WomanCare in the future.

By: Bonnie Squires

Bonnie Squires is a communications consultant who writes weekly for Main Line Media News and can be reached at She hosts the weekly WWDB AM radio show, “The Marketing of Business,” as well as the weekly “Bonnie’s Beat” TV interview show at Radnor Studio 21.