When the Reproductive Health Program at the University of Rochester closed its doors in 2005 my colleagues and I mourned the loss of an incredible training resource. It seemed everyone we knew who has making great strides in the field had trained at some point with Eric Schaff and his team in Rochester. The Reproductive Health Program (RHP) provided abortion training to medical students, residents, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, midwives, OB/GYNs, and family physicians. Clinicians needing to brush up on their skills could come for a short period of time, and those in need of in-depth training could stay longer. We joked that maybe the reason the Reproductive Health Program produced so many wonderful abortion providers is that they trained the most motivated, committed clinicians–who else would make the trek all the way to Rochester?
Our colleagues at Montefiore Medical Center and the Center for Reproductive Health Education in Family Medicine have analyzed the RHP’s training outcomes and recently published their findings in the Journal of Family Medicine. They confirmed what we always believed: the RHP filled an important training gap in our country. More than 80% of their trainees were family physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and midwives–clinicians with severely limited abortion training options. They found that RHP trainees were very likely to go on to provide abortion care–nearly 60% have provided either surgical or medication abortion since their training.
When the researchers drilled down to identify who in fact was most likely to provide abortion care, they found that clinicians who were already in practice at the time of their training were significantly more likely to go on to provide abortion care. This makes a lot of sense. We know from our own work with the Family Medicine Reproductive Health Network that newly graduated clinicians face obstacles to providing abortion care right away. It takes time for them to establish their clinical practice and work through the legal and logistical issues associated with providing abortion care. The Reproductive Health Program was unique in that it trained seasoned clinicians who were more likely to be in a position to provide abortion care once they became trained or refreshed their skills.
The Reproductive Health Program closed its doors in 2005. While residency-based abortion training has since been slowly expanding, training options for advanced practice clinicians and clinicians in practice remain scarce. Our colleagues at the Midwest Access Project are working to fill this void for clinicians in the Midwest. But, we need to do more. We need a national abortion training center. We need another Reproductive Health Program.