Celebrating Women’s History Month
Drs. Ki Park and Kay Roussos-Ross and midwife Natalia Prieto make a difference in women’s cardiology and OB-GYN
March 13, 2023 — Traditionally, women are less likely to seek out professional help for physical and mental health conditions. However, with an increasing presence of female clinicians and health professionals who come from backgrounds that are underrepresented in medicine, clinicians nationwide are gaining the trust that will lead women to better overall health. In honor of Women’s History Month, celebrated annually in March, the UF College of Medicine is highlighting female faculty and staff in various departments who dedicate their careers to improving women’s health.
Hear from three College of Medicine women who are impacting women’s health care:
Ki Park, M.D. ’06
In the beginning of her career as an interventional cardiologist, Ki Park, M.D. ’06, noticed women visiting the emergency room with symptoms indicating a heart attack weren’t always receiving the care they needed right away — an issue, in part, because women may have different heart attack symptoms than men. Through personal experience and research, Park, an associate professor in the division of cardiovascular medicine, also learned that health issues that can develop during pregnancy, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, increase a woman’s risk of cardiovascular issues, even if their conditions normalize postpartum.
These findings led Park to establish the UF Health Women’s Cardiovascular Health Services program, where she now serves as director. The program includes teams of cardio-obstetricians, congenital cardiologists, obstetricians, maternal-fetal medicine physicians, neonatology, geneticists and surgeons who address women’s heart health. Park said the creation of the clinic makes it easier for health teams to offer specialized care.
“With the program in place, we have much more structured and organized care for women prior to ,during pregnancy and postpartum who are at high risk,” she said. “We get referrals from all over the state and the southeast region, because programs like ours aren’t very common, even among academic institutions.”
Kay Roussos-Ross, M.D. ’02, MPAS ’98
As director of the UF Health Women’s Center — Medical Plaza, professor for the UF departments of obstetrics and gynecology and psychiatry and division chief for academic specialists in general obstetrics and gynecology, Kay Roussos-Ross, M.D. ’02, MPAS ’98, has committed her career to helping women maintain their physical and mental health. She and her colleagues developed a smartphone app called Gator MOMitor™ that new mothers can use to report worrying symptoms in the early weeks after giving birth. A nurse or physician from UF Health follows up if someone reports a problem.
The app is currently available to those who have given birth at UF Health Shands Hospital, and more than 1,000 mothers have used the app since its launch in July 2021. Roussos-Ross said she hopes the app will soon expand to become available to all mothers who give birth in Florida and beyond, to better improve maternal mortality rates across the state and nation.
“I went into OB-GYN because I wanted to do my part to impact women in a positive way, like focusing on research involving women and educating women so they can be advocates for their own health care,” Roussos-Ross said. “If we can offer exceptional care and education to women, they in turn can make great decisions for themselves and their families and continue exceling in their own lives.”
Natalia Prieto, CNM, ARNP, DNP
Natalia Prieto, CNM, ARNP, DNP, is the lead midwife for the UF Health Midwifery Group, a recently established practice aimed at personalizing pregnancy care while offering the resources of a major hospital system for consultation or in the rare instances when complications arise.
Services include prenatal care and education, family planning and birth control, pre-conception counseling, routine gynecology care, breast exams, breastfeeding support, labor and delivery and postpartum care. Births take place at UF Health Shands Hospital, where a range of specialist physicians are always available should complications arise during delivery. Doctors also can be consulted at any point in the months leading up to the birth, as midwives partner with moms-to-be for informed, shared decision-making about their health care choices.
“I love coming to work and going to see my patients,” Prieto said. “Since we started this program, I’ve been able to connect more with my patients, and we’ve built great relationships. When patients come in, they know us and trust us, which is the key. The midwives and physicians work really well together, and I think our skills complement each other extremely well.”