Laura Hollenbach, MD, an assistant professor in the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) College of Medicine, has become the first and only physician in Arkansas to be board-certified in obstetrics-gynecology with focused practice designation in pediatric and adolescent gynecology. She mostly sees pediatric patients on the campus of Arkansas Children’s Hospital, where UAMS Department of Pediatrics faculty members practice.
“It’s a relatively new specialty,” said Hollenbach, also the division director for pediatric and adolescent gynecology at Arkansas Children’s. “The American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, which certifies OB-GYNs in all subspecialties, has never had a separate examination for pediatric gynecology. But now it’s gotten large enough nationally that this is the first year they’ve offered it.”
Pediatric gynecologists treat patients from birth to age 22. While there is some overlap with general gynecology, certain issues arise specific to children, from structural issues at birth to early or late onset of puberty, that require specialized care, Hollenbach said.
“Kids aren’t just small adults, so we can’t extrapolate the way we treat adult women, with regard to gynecologic care, in the way we treat children. Specialty training in pediatric gynecology allows physicians to learn more about the special reproductive needs of children and adolescents,” she said.
Candidates for the exam were required to meet a certain volume of cases in which they specifically treated children in both operative procedures and clinical care in order to sit for the exam. About 100 candidates were selected nationwide.
“Since this is the first exam ever of its kind, even the people who were writing and contributing to the test had to take it,” Hollenbach said. “That’s kind of a weird phenomenon, but that’s because it was the first one.”
Hollenbach, who was heavily influenced and mentored by Little Rock physician Karen Kozlowski in this area of practice, said it’s rewarding to be among such a small group in a field that has existed as a specific area of research and interest for some time, but is expanding the formalization to a recognized field of specialty care.
“It’s a really tight knit group of people who are focused on this aspect of healthcare. If my colleagues had a question about a complicated delivery, for example, they could ask each other. Whereas, with this kind of specialty, if I email people, it’s specialists and experts from all across the nation. The people who trained me are the people who wrote the textbook.”
Hollenbach said that she was drawn to and has grown to love her field for its interactions with people, both in teaching residents and students at UAMS and treating younger patients at Arkansas Children’s and statewide through telemedicine.
“Working with children is rewarding in that you have a lot of opportunity to do preventive care and a lot of opportunity to do education,” she said. “While you can still do that in adult medicine, too, I feel you can have a bigger impact as they are still developing their habits and values and learning about themselves.”
Hollenbach, a graduate of Hendrix College in Conway, received a medical degree from UAMS in 2008 and joined the faculty in 2012. In 2014 she began a two-year fellowship in pediatric gynecology at Cincinnati Children Hospital Medical Center and afterward returned to UAMS in her current position.