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Women turn to USF for help with every aspect of midlife’s natural transition: menopause

For many years, women throughout the Tampa Bay area have turned to the University of South Florida for help as they transition through menopause.

Now that coordinated care has expanded with the opening of the USF Menopause Center, a multidisciplinary clinic designed to treat every aspect of menopause with a concierge approach to service.

“There are many symptoms associated with menopause, some directly and some indirectly,” said Barry S. Verkauf, MD, who is one of the nation’s leading experts on reproductive endocrinology and infertility, and is professor in the USF Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and director of the USF Menopause Center.

“This clinic will help women look at the entire menopause as a transition that can be safely managed so they can more fully enjoy the prime years of their lives.”

Photo of Dr. Barry Verkauf

Dr. Barry Verkauf

Dr. Verkauf said two primary factors drove USF to expand the new Center: population demographics and the increasing emphasis in medicine on prevention and quality of life.

“With the baby boomer generation maturing, the number of women entering the menopause has more than doubled since 1990,” he said. “This increase means more and more women will need and want support for the biological, sociological, physiological and interpersonal changes they are experiencing. And that support will greatly improve their quality of life as they live through menopause and enjoy midlife.”

The Center provides improved, targeted clinical options for women. Comprehensive evaluations, care and treatment by specialists in gynecology, endocrinology and sociology help patients safely manage their menopause, as well as screen for the most prevalent health issues they might be facing during these same years, including cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, and breast cancer.

“These four are most prevalent during the years of the peri and post menopause,” Dr. Verkauf said. “By screening our patients for these very serious, life-threatening diseases, we can offer a front-line approach to preventing future complications. We can also help evaluate early signs of depression and skin changes, which can also begin to appear during the same timeframe as menopause.”

Dr. Verkauf said the Center is working closely with local physicians specializing in these diseases, offering patients referral resources and a continuity of care to treat these major diseases. This network of physicians includes specialists in cardiology, psychology, endocrinology, rheumatology, sexual dysfunction, and sleep disorders.

Another key issue affecting these baby boomer women is misinformation, he said.

“Some earlier studies showing connections between using combinations of estrogen and progestin hormones with an increased risk for breast cancer and stroke have caused many women to turn away from hormone replacement therapy altogether,” he said.

“But those studies looked at a much older population, those in the mid-60s on average, and not those in their early 50s or late 40s, which are the more average ages for menopause and the menopausal transition.  The result is that women approached the menopause with a fear for hormones when, in fact, managed hormone treatment would be safe and effective for most women for combating the symptoms that leave many women feeling miserable.”

Dr. Verkauf said that the USF Menopause Center is meeting a huge demand for Tampa Bay area women.

“We are looking at the whole patient, a woman experiencing a completely natural stage in her life that can bring forth uncomfortable as well as serious symptoms,” he said. “Our aim is to help this woman live the best life possible through these years.”

Visit Womens.health.usf.edu for more information about the USF Menopause Center and other services offered by the USF Department of Ob/Gyn.

To make an appointment, visit myhealthcare.usf.edu or call (813) 259-8500.

Story by Sarah A. Worth, photos by Eric Younghans, USF Health Office of Communications