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At Walter Reed Bethesda, the Obstetrics and Gynecology (OB/GYN) Department continues to pave the way in women's health care and research. Last month, the department's residency program showcased its expertise, achieving noteworthy accreditation while its residents swept a regional research competition.

Recognizing their accomplishments, Walter Reed Bethesda Commander Rear Adm. Alton Stocks congratulated the OB/GYN department, its staff and residents, in a recent command-wide email.

"This is more proof that everyone at Walter Reed Bethesda rises above all challenges and provides outstanding health care, education and training. You are what makes this Medical Center great. What you do matters," Stocks stated.

Following an extensive review process that began in July, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) awarded the OB/GYN residency program its third consecutive, five-year accreditation, on Oct. 17, said Air Force Col. John Fischer, program director of the Uniformed Services Residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology. The five-year accreditation is remarkable because it is the maximum length of accreditation awarded by the ACGME, he added.

The accreditation process involved a site inspection, during which all aspects of the program were closely examined, including patient cases and educational components, Fischer explained. Overseen by the Graduate Medical Education/National Capital Consortium (GME/NCC), the residency program met the ACGME's extensive list of standards, related to patient care, medical knowledge, professionalism, research and academics, as well as communication and systems-based practice, and support from the command, he continued.

Also this month, the program's residents picked up a number of wins at the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG) Armed Forces District meeting, Oct. 6-10, Fischer continued. According to the ACOG's website, the organization is dedicated to education for women's health and developing standards for residencies. It is divided into a number of districts by location, each holding annual meetings to showcase research and award residents for their outstanding work.

This month's Armed Forces District Meeting, also called the District X Meeting, culminated the residents' research that they've been working on for years, Fischer said. At the start of their residency, OB/GYN interns may first present their research, as a case report, at Walter Reed Bethesda's annual Resident Research Day. During this event, held each May, second year residents present research proposals. Third and fourth year residents then go on to present their research at the ACOG's annual district meeting, he explained.

At the district meeting, residents presented their research focusing on a variety of areas, such as oncology, detecting precancerous cells, and surgical procedures, taking first place for their scientific papers, as well as poster and oral presentations.

"We had 29 poster and oral presentations out of the total 119, almost 25 percent of the presentations. This is truly significant when you remember we are only one of eight facilities with an OB/GYN training program," Fischer said. "The meeting opened with six highlighted [research] papers. Five of the six were from the NCC, two [of which were] from residents, three from fellows."

Among the winning residents, Kristen P. Zeligs, MD, was awarded best oral presentation. The Air Force captain and fourth year resident said she began working on her research project in 2010: a DoD-wide retrospective review of patients at the medical center diagnosed with vaginal dysplasia, from January 2002 to January 2012. The study reviewed all women diagnosed with this condition, in which precancerous cells are found in the vagina, to evaluate patients' history and risk factors for normalization, persistence, and recurrence, she said.

"It was a wonderful feeling to see the project to completion and present the results at the annual meeting. Additionally, it's always exciting to receive positive feedback on a research project that has consumed many hours of hard work on the parts of all those involved," Zeligs said.

Fischer attributes these accomplishments to the program's dedicated residents, who are committed to their own education and success. He also noted the hardworking faculty members, mentoring the residents and fellows and leading them to success. "[The faculty members] are also dedicated to the education and success of the residents, and students are always willing to dedicate extra time and effort to mentor and support our residents."

Many of the faculty members serve on international and national committees, including the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ABOG), the Gynecologic Oncology Group (GOC), the Association of Professors of Gynecology and Obstetrics (APGO), as well as the ACOG. Several also have been awarded Professor of the Year at the annual Armed Forces District Meeting.

Also of note, he said, all of the program's subspecialties are nationally recognized as outstanding programs in their own right, to include gynecologic oncology, urogynecology, reproductive endocrinology and infertility, and minimally invasive surgery.

"I think we have not only one of the best OB/GYN residency programs in the military, but across the nation as well," said Fischer. "Above all, I feel the residents and faculty try to live by treating their patients as they would want someone to treat their mother, their wife, themselves, their sisters or their daughters."