New OB/GYN Chair at Saint Louis University School of Medicine Growing the Network of Care
Author: Lucy Schultze
Keeping a great program on track and nurturing already-strong relationships are among the goals of Mary McLennan, MD, as she takes the reins of the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health Services at Saint Louis University School of Medicine.
“I was willing to take on this challenge as someone who has an understanding of the people and players — where the program has been and where it needs to go,” she said. “For someone coming in from the outside, it would take time to understand those things.”
McLennan, a gynecologist with SLUCare Physician Group, has spent the past 15 years on the medical school faculty. She follows Raul Artal, MD, as chair of OB/GYN.
“I’m very lucky in that Dr. Artal left our department in great shape,” McLennan said. “The average length of time that our faculty members have been here is 11 years, so we have been with each other a long time. We like each other and work well together.”
As she steps into the role of chair, she’s broadening her attention to relationships beyond her division of urogynecology and beyond the OB/GYN department as well.
“Our maternal service line is in partnership with SSM and St. Mary’s Health Center, and we work together in strategic planning for where we want our program to go,” she said. “It’s also new for me to have more interaction with chairs of other departments and with the business aspects of SLU. But I enjoy all these kinds of interactions.”
For McLennan, accommodating those new responsibilities has come with a shift away from patient care, which she did not take lightly.
“My relationship with my patients is important to me, so it was a very hard decision to cut back on that,” she said. “But I also want to see the relationship between SLU and our private hospital partners continue to grow and bloom.
“I appreciate the intricacies of that relationship and how important it is to nurture it. It’s not unlike looking after a patient: The continuity of care is really important.”
McLennan officially became chair of the OB/GYN department on March 1 after serving as interim chair since July 2014 and vice chair for the year prior. She has been a member of the SLU faculty since 1999 and served as director of the division of urogynecology. She has also been director of the OB/GYN residency program for eight years.
As a urogynecologist, McLennan is recognized locally and nationally as a leader in her field, treating patients who have pelvic floor disorders and incontinence.
She holds a medical degree from the University of Queensland in St. Lucia, Australia, and completed an internship and residency in family practice before choosing to focus on OB/GYN care. She received a diploma of obstetrics from the Royal Australian College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
After marrying an American, McLennan completed her OB/GYN residency training in the United States at the SLU School of Medicine, followed by a fellowship in urogynecology at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center. There, she stayed on to practice alongside her fellowship director as partner for three years, before being recruited to SLU by Artal.
“It had always been my intention to come back, because I had such a good time at SLU,” she said. “It was the best decision of my life to come back. I love this program and feel very blessed to be here.”
Among the efforts McLennan is excited about within the partnership between SLU and SSM St. Mary’s Health Center are continuing to advance not only the program’s well-known service for high-risk obstetrics, but also the gynecologic side of the program. McLennan is among four urogynecologists in the division.
“We provide a lot of services for incontinence and prolapse, and we hope to partner with St. Mary’s in providing a multidisciplinary approach to both urinary and fecal incontinence,” she said. “Providing a pelvic pain center – something for which there’s a need in this city – is also something we’re working toward.”
Likewise, she said, SLUCare’s Vulvar and Vaginal Disorders Specialty Center serves an area of need in St. Louis and receives regional referrals. And the Fetal Care Institute provides the only fetal surgery center in the region for in-utero procedures.
The department also provides OB/GYN care for several of St. Louis County’s public health clinics, caring for patients at the South County Health Center, North Central Community Health Center and John C. Murphy Health Center. Meanwhile, its resident clinic stays busy providing care for patients who are uninsured, underinsured or on Medicaid.
“In collaboration with SSM, we do a lot of public service for patients who don’t have insurance,” she said. “We touch many lives – from those who have the best insurance to those who have none. It doesn’t matter: We provide the same level of care.”
McLennan is also keen to spread the word about the personalized care provided by the department’s small gynecological oncology division.
“It’s a hidden secret and a gem,” she said.
On a national level, McLennan has served as a member of the board of directors of the American Urogynecological Society and is a board examiner at the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
She is editor of Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery and has served on several editorial boards and as an ad hoc reviewer of several other journals including the International Urogynecology Journal, the Journal of Urology and the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Additionally, she has published over 40 peer-reviewed publications, books and book chapters and has received many awards and honors.
Outside of work, McLennan enjoys life at home with her husband, Ron Pearson, an emergency physician, and their cheerful brood of five pugs and one mixed-breed rescue dog.