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Perspective: Academic Obstetrics–Gynecology Departments in the City of Philadelphia: Are the Wheels Coming Off?

Croft, Damien J. MD, MPH

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3182092347
Institutional Issues

Maternity care in Philadelphia is in an unprecedented and precarious situation, as all the community hospitals that once provided maternity care services have either closed completely or stopped providing maternity services. Six academic medical centers (AMCs) in the city of Philadelphia now provide care to a population of 1.5 million requiring increasingly complex and expensive maternity care, at the same time as insurance premiums and the malpractice crisis in Pennsylvania peaked. The AMCs are able to continue providing maternity care to this population that includes a large proportion of poor, minority, and un- or underinsured patients thanks to government subsidization of resident education, the services provided by resident physicians, and the influx of government and industry research funds, but the financial outlook of academic obstetrics–gynecology departments in this city is dire. Obstetric academic medicine in Philadelphia has come to more closely resemble a “big wheel” tricycle than Flexner's “three-legged stool.” Clinical medicine is the driver (the large front wheel and pedal) pulling along education and research, the two smaller wheels in the back. A maternity care alliance is needed in Philadelphia allowing area AMCs to pool and trade resources, reduce costs, improve quality and innovation, and share risks. Philadelphia may serve as an early warning for other cities and AMCs around the country and has the opportunity to serve as a model for how to overcome these serious challenges.

Dr. Croft is assistant professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Drexel University College of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Croft, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Drexel University College of Medicine, Mail Stop 495, New College Building, 16th Floor, 245 N. 15th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102; telephone: (215) 917-7879; fax: (215) 762-1689; e-mail:

First published online January 18, 2011.

© 2011 Association of American Medical Colleges