By: Christina Griffiths
It’s been two years since Jeffrey Peipert, MD, PhD, joined Indiana University School of Medicine as Chair for the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Since then, the department has welcomed over a dozen new faculty members and increased its number of research studies to more than 30. But Dr. Peipert says that’s just the beginning.
“We’re starting to see a real swing in terms of morale, in terms of momentum,” said Dr. Peipert, “and I’m very excited about the next three-to-five years ahead.”
After earning his MD from Emory University and PhD from Brown University, Dr. Peipert completed a fellowship at Yale University in public health, clinical research and epidemiology that he says changed the course of his career.
“That changed the focus of my career to be more toward research and education, more toward clinical research and a little away from the clinical enterprise,” said Dr. Peipert. He then spent time at Brown University, where he received a doctorate in epidemiology, and Washington University in St. Louis where he focused on growing the clinical research departments, especially in the areas of infectious diseases and family planning.
“I’m a big believer that every pregnancy should be intended, ideally planned,” said Dr. Peipert. “Not all pregnancies are planned, but unintended pregnancies are higher-risk pregnancies, so if we can avoid unintended pregnancies, we can avoid the need for abortion and some adverse pregnancy outcomes.”
While at Washington University, Dr. Peipert led a study called the Contraceptive Choice Project. Almost 10,000 women were recruited and informed about the most effective methods of contraception, called long-acting reversible contraceptives, or LARC. LARC methods include the IUD and contraceptive implant. After providing all women with education regarding the most effective contraceptive methods and providing all contraceptive methods at no cost, 75 percent chose LARC methods.
“We saw a substantial reduction in unintended pregnancy and a reduction in health disparities,” said Dr. Peipert.
Now, Dr. Peipert is growing those same areas of research and education at the IU School of Medicine OB/GYN department. Since 2016, a dozen new faculty members have joined, with two more on the way. Dr. Christina Scifres and Dr. Methodius Tuuli will join the department in the summer and fall of 2018, and will bring with them experience and research in diabetes, high-risk pregnancies and evidence-based obstetric care. Dr. Peipert is also looking forward to growing research and education in minimally invasive surgery, gynecology, urogynecology, and gynecological oncology.
“Gynecologic oncology is really an unmet need for the state. We should have many more GYN oncologists because many women in the state have female-related cancers. Many more GYN oncologists are needed,” said Dr. Peipert.
As Dr. Peipert continues focusing on growth across the department, he says it’s all with the goal of improving women’s health across the state.
“What I’d like to see happen in terms of public health in Indiana is have a statewide effort to improve the health of women and families. Two key initiatives are HPV vaccination, to prevent cervical cancer, and providing effective contraceptive methods at no cost to reduce unintended pregnancies,” said Dr. Peipert. “If we do that, we will reduce infant mortality and maternal mortality.”
Dr. Jeffrey Peipert is chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at IU School of Medicine.