UMC Spotlight – Family Medicine Obstetricians

July 7, 2022

Family medicine physicians often choose to incorporate obstetrics into their practices so they can better serve their patients. This is particularly helpful in rural and medically underserved areas, where the nearest obstetrician might be counties away.

Dr. Connie Leeper is a family medicine obstetrician with University Medical Center. She said FMOBs, as they are called, can also provide continuity of care by caring for women before they are mothers, during their pregnancies and deliveries, and can then care for their babies. In addition, ensuring that patients have access to obstetricians and FMOBs means they have access to prenatal care and to a hospital for their delivery.

“There may not be enough obstetricians to go around in rural areas and sometimes not enough patients for an obstetrician to have a practice there,” Leeper said. “One way that need is filled in rural areas is by FMOBs.”

“Alabama is such a rural state that it’s definitely a big issue here. It’s hard to have access to care and to all the specialty care you might need.”

UMC has four family medicine obstetricians: Leeper, who practices at UMC in Tuscaloosa and UMC-Demopolis; Dr. Catherine Lavender, who practices at UMC-Northport and UMC-Carrollton, Dr. Ashley Steiner, who practices at UMC-Demopolis; and Dr. Cheree Melton, who practices at UMC-Northport and UMC-Fayette.

FMOBs are skilled in managing pregnancies and delivering babies, as well as in providing primary care for patients of all ages. Family medicine physicians who specialize in obstetrics provide prenatal care, labor and delivery care, postpartum and newborn care. They can also provide a wide range of primary care for infants, children and adults – from preventive care and screenings to managing illness, injuries and chronic conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure – and they often care for multiple generations within a family.

“One of the biggest benefits of family medicine obstetrics is that we can take care of women before they’re pregnant, even as children and teenagers, as they’re thinking about getting pregnant and when they do get pregnant, and we can deliver their baby and take care of the baby afterward,” Leeper said.

To become an FMOB, doctors complete a three-year family medicine residency and then do an extra year or two of training in obstetrics, where they deliver babies, care for women with high-risk pregnancies and perform Cesarean sections.

“They can get an extra year or two of training specifically in obstetrics where they’re often working on a labor and delivery floor and doing prenatal care things,” Leeper said.

The University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences, which operates UMC, offers a year-long Obstetrics Fellowship for family medicine physicians. The fellowship is the oldest such training program in the U.S., created in 1986 to address the overwhelming need for obstetrics care in rural and remote areas of Alabama. During the fellowship, training is provided in instrumental and operative obstetrics, C-sections, dilatation and curettage, ultrasound, colposcopy, LEEP procedures, cryotherapy and endometrial biopsies.

University Medical Center’s FMOBs: