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Conferences on Children's Health & the Environment

Conference on Environmental Health for Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Hosted by The Mid-Atlantic Center for Children’s Health & the Environment and the George Washington University Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology

11th Annual Conference

Date: September 20, 2013
Location: Waterview Conference Center, Arlington, VA
Accommodations: Marriot Key Bridge
Time: 8 am - 5 pm

The Mid-Atlantic Center for Children’s Health and the Environment and the George Washington University Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology’s Conference on Environmental Health for Obstetricians and Gynecologists was held on September 20th, 2013.  

The environment has a profound effect on fetal growth and development, but education regarding environmental influences on the mother and fetus is often underrepresented in Obstetrics and Gynecology curricula.  We gathered leaders from all Obstetrics and Gynecology residency training programs in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia to participate in a one-day conference to nurture environmental program development.

Obstetricians and Gynecologists are increasingly confronted with clinical situations and questions from patients about the impact of environmental toxicants on the general health of women, on fertility in both women and men, and on pregnancy outcome.  There is a growing body of research on these topics and the potential for research funding through the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences of the NIH, the Office of research & Development of the US Environmental Protection Agency and other resources.

Dr. Jeanne Conry, President of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), started the day by explaining the important role obstetrician-gynecologists can play in preventing the adverse outcomes of environmental exposure during pregnancy.  Dr. Conry spoke of ACOG’s initiatives surrounding environmental exposures and urged participants to become advocates for the protection of women from toxic chemicals.  The conference was relevant and well-timed, as ACOG and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine released their joint committee opinion “Exposure to Toxic Environmental Agents” on September 24th, 2013.

For the remainder of the morning, participants stayed together for plenary sessions to hear Dr. Jerome Paulson speak about the role of the Mid-Atlantic Center and the PEHSUs as a resource in pediatric environmental health, as well as Dr. Kevin Osterhoudt provide an overview of environmental health.  Dr. Donald Mattison, of Risk Sciences International, discussed how drug interactions are different between males and females, and how to use what is known about environmental health in clinical practice of obstetrics-gynecology.  Dr. Frederica Perera, a prominent researcher at the Columbia Children’s Center for Environmental Health, spoke about the impact of pesticide exposure in utero and its impact on child development.  During lunch, Dr. Sarah Obican, of Columbia University, lead participants through a series of case studies that might be encountered during clinical practice, and how to advise patients.

Following lunch, participants chose between several breakout sessions which provided more detail on emerging issues in environmental health.  Dr. Ami Zota, of the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Sciences, spoke about the impact of endocrine disrupting chemicals and the ubiquity of chemicals in pregnant women of the US.  Dr. Kjersti Aagaard explained the role of the environment on the epigenome.  Dr. Jerome Paulson outlined how clinicians can advocate for environmental health policy.  Dr. Mary Mortensen, of the Centers for Disease Control, reviewed biomarkers of toxic exposures in pregnant women and infants in the US.  Dr. Alex Stagnaro-Green, of the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, demonstrated how all environmental exposures are not harmful, in that iodine cannot be produced by the body and is necessary for healthy neurodevelopment.  Following the afternoon breakout sessions, participants re-convened to listen to Patrice Sutton, MPH, of the Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment, explain how randomized control trials are not always available in environmental health research and provided and overview of resources for obstetrician-gynecologists in interpreting environmental health research.  The conference concluded by discussing the integration of environmental health topics in obstetrics and gynecology education, the possible barriers that would be encountered, and the resources required.

Initial feedback from the conference was very positive. By the end of the meeting, several participants were identified as being interested in continuing the conversation beyond the conference on how academic programs of obstetrics and gynecology can educate the next generation of practitioners on the influence of the environment on maternal and fetal health.  The Mid-Atlantic Center plans to convene a work group of obstetricians and gynecology that can champion environmental health in their profession throughout region three.

The Mid-Atlantic Center is one of ten Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units (PEHSU’s).  We serve Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia and Washington, DC. Part of our mission is to educate the health professional community on children’s environmental health.

Planning of the 12th annual conference is underway; check back for more details.

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