Pediatric gynecologist addresses needs of youth
By Robin Russell
Children and teenagers bring an entirely different set of gynecologic issues to a doctor’s office than do adult patients. That’s one reason that UT Southwestern has recruited Dr. Akilah Weber, Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, who is also a specialist in pediatric and adolescent gynecology.
Dr. Weber arrived on campus in September 2010 after completing a fellowship in pediatric and adolescent gynecology at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, one of only six institutions in the United States and Canada that offer such a fellowship.
Pediatric and adolescent gynecologists diagnose and manage congenital reproductive anomalies, disorders of sex development, gynecologic malignancies, gynecologic disorders in medically complicated children, and reproductive problems. Among the conditions they see are labial adhesions, vulvovaginitis, chronic vaginal discharge, some genitourinary anomalies that require surgical reconstruction, and skin disorders such as lichen sclerosus.
Because few institutions have a fellowship-trained pediatric and adolescent gynecologist, other subspecialties sometimes take on these issues.
“I think it is always useful to have an OB/GYN,” Dr. Weber said, “especially if they are trained in pediatric and adolescent gynecology, to manage or collaborate in the management with other subspecialties in the care of girls and adolescent females when dealing with their reproductive system
This was an important aspect of her fellowship at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, where she collaborated with other subspecialties each week. “There was a clinic for young women with bleeding disorders, staffed by hematology and pediatric & adolescent gynecology,” Dr. Weber said. “We operated with the pediatric surgeons in treating young girls with anorectal malformations and we collaborated with pediatric urology and pediatric endocrinology in the medical and surgical management of young girls with disorders of sexual development.
“Because we see pediatric, adolescent and adult patients, we have much more of a broad view of how some of these gynecologic problems can have long-term effects on someone’s reproductive function for their entire life. Additionally, we’re able to follow and care for them into adulthood.”
She hopes her expertise will help build a solid regional referral base of young gynecologic patients here at UT Southwestern. She sees patients at both Children’s Medical Center Dallas and Children’s Medical Center at Legacy in Plano. She also staffs an adult gynecology clinic one day a week.
Having a career in medicine was nearly a foregone conclusion for Dr. Weber. Raised in San Diego, her dad always told her she was going to be a physician.
“I think he was always fascinated by medicine, but he always said he never had the stomach for it so he went into law instead,” she said. “As a child, I was always placed in schools that were magnet for math, science and computer. My extracurricular activities were generally something that had to do with science. Eventually I developed my own love for science.”
When she graduated from high school, she was listed in Ebony magazine as one of the nation’s top high school seniors: Though she thought she was going to be a neurological surgeon, she discovered at the University of Rochester Medical Center that she really enjoyed working with adolescents and women, so she chose ob-gyn as her specialty. She completed a residency at Chicago’s Cook County Hospital and a fellowship in Cincinnati.
Coming to UT Southwestern was an easy choice, she said.
“UT Southwestern has such an outstanding reputation, especially in the Ob-Gyn department. I used their publications and books throughout my entire residency, so to work here with other faculty is an incredible experience.”