After more than a century of innovation and growth, Crouse Health remains dedicated to its women’s services program — a pillar of the community and a source of quality care.
(left to right) Kathleen Miller Murphy, BSN, RNC, CCE; Mary Cunningham, MD; and Cathy Berry, MD
In 1887, a group of women founded the Syracuse Women’s Hospital and Training School for Nurses. When the hospital opened, it was the first and only hospital in Central New York to admit women and children. After many name changes and expansions, what is now known as Crouse Health provides perinatal care for 15 counties and receives the majority of all high-risk obstetric and neonatal intensive care cases for 18 hospitals within its catchment area.
“If one of our patients’ babies needs to go to the NICU, they won’t be separated since we provide those services here,” says Cathy Berry, MD, OB/GYN at Cathy Berry, MD & Associates and Crouse Health. “We also provide 24/7 anesthesia and robust lactation services.”
Though the perinatal care offered at Crouse Health’s Kienzle Family Maternity Center may seem like the foundation of Crouse, due to its reputation, is just one part of a wide range of services the organization offers to Central New York women.
“We are so proud of our rich history and the contributions of female innovators who started our organization over 130 years ago,” says Kathleen Miller Murphy, BSN, RNC, CCE, Director of Women’s Health Integration at Crouse Health. “We continue to blaze trails in many areas of women’s health as well as in general health care, and we are leading the charge for innovation and the next generation of women’s healthcare needs.”
The Heart of Crouse Health
Women’s services at Crouse Health serve as the backbone of the organization and play a vital role in patients’ continuum of care. For example, though the Diane and Bob Miron Cardiac Care Center offers cardiac services to the entire community, it also does so from a women’s health perspective. Providers are able to recognize warning signs of heart disease that are unique to women and suggest treatment methods that are tailored to their physiologic needs.
“Whether it’s cardiology, pelvic, colorectal or bariatric health, keeping women’s health in perspective is vitally important and a strategic initiative for us,” says Seth Kronenberg, MD, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Medical Officer at Crouse Health. “While technology continues to change and improve, our culture of caring for patients and the development of compassionate expertise among our physicians is what really differentiates us.”
This expertise encompasses a wide range of service lines that must be properly coordinated so that patients receive the care they need, when they need it.
“We have a strategic service line director for women’s health, and her role is to help coordinate all the services we perform within a women’s health framework,” Dr. Kronenberg says. “We don’t want women accessing health care in a fragmented way, so our goal is to have seamless communication between patients and providers to ensure women’s specific needs are always met.”
As part of these efforts, Crouse Health educates women on the importance of their health, including the need to take interest and action when it comes to their personal health and well-being.
“Prioritizing themselves is one of the biggest barriers women face when it comes to their health care,” Dr. Berry says. “Some women say they put others’ needs above their own or don’t have the time to see a cardiologist, but if they have untreated hypertension and experience a stroke, how will they help their families? The best way women can help loved ones is to help themselves.”
“Our vision of women’s health care has changed dramatically, even in the past five years. What we’re seeing now is that women are very different from men and have different needs, and we make sure to incorporate this in our thought process as we provide care, no matter the subspecialty. In this way, we can make it a lot easier for women to access the care they need, all in one place.”
— Cathy Berry, MD, OB/GYN at Cathy Berry, MD & Associates and Crouse Health
If patients have a complex condition, they may require the attention of providers from multiple departments. Patients can rely on the help of nurse navigators to ensure they know which physicians to see and at what time. Nurse navigators help information flow between providers and service lines, though the providers stay in constant communication with one another as well.
“Since we are all part of the same group, we can easily call each other at any time,” says Hadley Narins, MD, fellowship-trained, board-certified female urology specialist at Associated Medical Professionals and Crouse Health. “We can refer patients between our offices or ask each other questions.”
To maximize their wide knowledge base and close proximity to one another, physicians at Crouse Health keep an eye out for signs of conditions and issues that women may not know about, such as pelvic health disorders or voiding dysfunction. They educate patients on these issues and can refer them to the appropriate department for follow-up if further action is required.
“We’re trying to give patients an access point to connect with the appropriate physician or resource, which might be me or someone else,” Dr. Narins says. “We want to be integrated and cohesive as a group so that we can offer all aspects of care in an efficient fashion.”
Providing women with education in an understanding and private manner can help them be upfront about their issues and receive timely care.
“We have terrific resources for patients,” Dr. Narins says. “A lot of women don’t have the knowledge or know how to reach out, so we want to make sure they are sent to the right place.”
“If a patient has a suspected gynecologic cancer, we pride ourselves on being responsive and understanding. Seeing and evaluating patients quickly is one of our hallmarks. We can provide quality care in a local setting with access to the same clinical trials and standards of care available nationwide.”
— Mary Cunningham, MD, gynecologic oncologist at GYN Oncology of Central New York, PC
Advanced Services for Women
To better serve Central New York women, Crouse Health recently brought on Dr. Narins to lead its new female urology and pelvic reconstruction program.
“There was a significant need in the community for someone with advanced fellowship training in voiding dysfunction and pelvic organ prolapses,” Dr. Narins says. “My fellowship training addresses both of these issues with a strong emphasis on neuromodulation, which is an advanced therapy for overactive bladder that has not responded to more conservative treatment.”
Dr. Narins works alongside a group of physicians and other providers to treat issues such as fecal and urinary incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, and sexual dysfunction.
“Whether women are dealing with depression, infertility, cancer, stress, cardiac issues, gynecological issues — we want to help them navigate the ever-changing healthcare landscape so that they can live their best and healthiest lives. Simply put, we want women to focus on themselves and we support them in that journey.”
— Kathleen Miller Murphy, BSN, RNC, CCE, Director of Women’s Health Integration at Crouse Health
Enhancing Care for Postpartum Depression
Further underscoring its comprehensive women’s services profile, Crouse has recently launched a unique program to help families dealing with perinatal anxiety and depression (called Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder, or PMAD). This affects one in five moms, and dads can suffer as well from PMAD. It is the number one complication of pregnancy. Women with postpartum depression may think something is wrong with them for not being overjoyed at what they believe should be the happiest time of their lives.
“Peer support can be a positive influence, especially for an illness that is often swept under the rug,” Dr. Berry says. “People come out of the program realizing that they’re not as different as they thought, and that they’re experiencing something many new parents experience.”
“We are fully committed to women’s services in all situations across the age spectrum, whether patients are sick with pneumonia or just maintaining their health and wellness. We want to be the provider of choice for not only pregnancy and birth, but all women’s services.”
— Seth Kronenberg, MD, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Medical Officer at Crouse Health
Pelvic Health a Cornerstone
Bringing together experts from different backgrounds has allowed Crouse’s pelvic health program to treat a wide range of conditions — a goal that has existed since its planning stages.
“We’ve worked to create a collaborative network of physicians and advance practice providers who all focus on women’s pelvic health,” Dr. Narins says. “My expertise is just one piece of the puzzle.”
One of the major successes of the program so far has been the establishment of the pelvic floor physical therapy service, which has been up and running since last winter. Other therapy options available within the program include medical and surgical treatments such as intravesical Botox and percutaneous tibial nerve stimulation for urinary incontinence.
“Many common problems that nobody likes to talk about can easily be addressed through our pelvic health program,” Murphy says.
“I don’t think there is any other area program that offers the breadth of services with the level of access that Crouse offers. We strive to cover all aspects of care for patients by making it easier to schedule a consultation and see providers more expeditiously. We want to make sure patients are getting to the right physician in a reasonable amount of time.”
— Hadley Narins, MD, fellowship-trained, board-certified female urology specialist at Associated Medical Professionals and Crouse Health
In addition to creating new service lines, such as the female urology and pelvic reconstruction program, Crouse Health continues to strengthen its existing services, including those offered at the Dr. Hadley J. Falk Breast Health Center.
“We were the first area program designated as a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiology,” Murphy says. “We offer the latest in 3D imaging technology, digital mammography, image-guided biopsy and computer-aided detection of malignancies using MRI.”
The team at the Falk Breast Health Center works collaboratively with the radiology department at Crouse Health and area partners, such as Central New York Surgical Physicians P.C. and Hematology-Oncology Associates of CNY, to cover a wide spectrum of breast health services. Support groups are also available for women who have dealt with breast cancer.
“Our goal is to support patients and families from diagnosis to treatment and beyond,” Murphy says. “We can treat a wide array of gynecological issues related to cancer in women.”
As part of its gynecologic oncology program, Crouse Health offers infusion therapy, surgical and postoperative care, acute and chronic pain management, palliative care, and complementary integrative medicine therapies. Crouse Health is also a leader in surgical robotic procedures for gynecologic cancers and other women’s health conditions.
“We do more gynecologic surgeries at Crouse Health than all other hospitals in Syracuse combined,” says Mary Cunningham, MD, gynecologic oncologist at GYN Oncology of Central New York, PC and Crouse Health. “From planning to surgery to recovery, every member of our team is experienced and has guided many patients through this process in the past.”
Common procedures include surgery for endometrial cancer that involves the removal of the uterus, cervix, ovaries and lymph nodes. These and other procedures can be performed laparoscopically, though open surgery can also be pursued when necessary.
For patients who have exhausted existing treatment methods, clinical trials are also available through Crouse Health’s partnerships with local practices.
“We often participate in national clinical trials,” Dr. Cunningham says. “There are many exciting things happening with immunotherapy and targeted therapies that we’ll continue to study and implement in our practice.”
And while perinatal support services have always been a large part of care at Crouse Health, the organization is doing more to provide additional services to new and expectant parents.
“We began our Spirit of Women program four years ago,” Murphy says. We have over 10,000 women whom we engage with to promote health and wellness. “Under Spirit of Women we built our Perinatal Family Support Program for Perinatal Anxiety and Depression. Our program offers screening in the hospital as well as counseling with our reproductive psychiatric nurse practitioners, support groups, art therapy and connection to community resources.”
This program is unique because Crouse incorporates wraparound services to support not only the mental health aspect but also use tools like integrative medicine, lactation support and peer group support programming to create a network for new families to guide them through what can be a difficult time. They will get better with support, and Crouse has created this unique program to help them do that. As part of this, the hospital has recently opened a center to support families and include medication management for women who need it — a need we were able to identify after input from our providers.
To learn more about women’s health care at Crouse Health, visit crouse.org/services/womens-services.