“One of our cardiologists has a favorite story about a seminar he went to about 30 years ago,” says Reezie DeVet, chief operating officer of Northern Michigan Regional Hospital, in Petoskey. “The title of the seminar was something like Cardiac Health Issues for Women, and the information was all about what a woman needed to know to take care of her husband’s heart.”

That male-centric vision of health care is thankfully long gone, but the science of women-focused medicine and medical services tailored to women continues to evolve. NMRH recently made a bold statement about its commitment in this area with a focus on women’s health services.

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“Science has come to better understand women’s anatomy, hormone issues, and specific diagnoses and treatments that women need,” DeVet says. “And that has helped us look at women’s health differently, promoting the pieces we have in place that serve women well.”

A leading piece of the women’s health services offered is a breast health program, featuring breast MRIs and digital mammography. “It’s surprising how many breast cancers can be missed with a traditional mammogram,” says James Flickema, senior director for professional services. The breast MRI—which the hospital installed about a year ago—has proven effective at finding cancers missed by traditional mammograms, but the technology has been so expensive it has largely been restricted to urban hospitals or university settings. Now women know they need not travel downstate for that important test.

For women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, NMRH has instituted a navigator program, in which a clinician, typically a nurse, is assigned to be the patient’s navigator, a health care expert who helps the patient deal with the complexities of the health care system.

Focusing on womens’ health is expected to produce important ripple effects for the hospital as well, DeVet explains. “Women serve as gatekeepers for their families’ medical decisions,” she says. If the hospital can deliver services respectfully and at a high level of quality, women are likely to bring other family members in for services too. northernhealth.org, 231-487-4000.

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