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If you are interested in women’s health and reproductive care, then you may consider a career as an OB/GYN, meaning a doctor specially trained in obstetrics and gynecology.

What is an OB/GYN? Obstetrics involves care during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period. Gynecology deals with reproductive health and the functions and diseases specific to women and girls.

What does OB/GYN stand for? It stands for  obstetrician gynecologist, an expert on women’s health who combines both specialties. If you are considering a career as an OB/GYN, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you passionate about women’s reproductive health?
  • Do you want to care for unborn children and help deliver them at birth?
  • Are you interested in genetics and genetic counseling?
  • Do you enjoy working with your hands?
  • Are you attracted to a procedure-based specialty?
  • Do you want to develop long-lasting bonds with patients?
  • Do you want a deep understanding of reproductive physiology?

If your answer to these questions is “yes,” then becoming an OB/GYN may be the career path for you.

What Does an OB/GYN Do?

Obstetrics and gynecology are taught together in residency, and doctors are certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ABOG), but the medical specialties are distinct. You may be wondering: what is obstetrics and gynecology? What is the difference between obstetrics vs gynecology? An OB/GYN or obstetrician gynecologist may pursue a variety of paths, including being only an obstetrician or only being a gynecologist. An OB/GYN meaning a doctor who specializes in obstetrics, a gynecologist being a doctor who specializes in gynecology. Obstetricians provide pregnancy care for both the mother and the fetus—the unborn child. Obstetricians help deliver babies at childbirth and then help mothers recover from the physical and mental strains of pregnancy and childbirth. Obstetricians do not treat health issues beyond pregnancy. Gynecologists, on the other hand, do not deliver babies or treat pregnant women. They instead focus on the health of the uterus, the ovaries, the fallopian tubes, and other organs of the female reproductive system. Both obstetricians and gynecologists may prescribe drugs or perform surgery to treat a patient. 

Most OB/GYN’s, however, choose to practice both obstetrics and gynecology, and many OB/GYN’s act as primary care physicians. The American Medical Association states that most patients seen by an OB/GYN—nearly 80 percent—are between the ages of 15 and 45, when health education and preventative care is key to a woman’s reproductive health. Many patients remain with the same OB/GYN for many years, allowing the development of trusting personal relationships. OB/GYNs work a lot with their hands, they counsel their patients, and they perform diagnostic procedures, surgeries, and other treatments. Obstetrics/ gynecology responsibilities, procedures, and topics may include:

  • Abortion
  • Amniocentesis 
  • Childbirth
  • Colposcopy
  • Contraception
  • Family planning
  • Genetic screening and testing
  • Health care disparities
  • Hysterectomy
  • Hysteroscopy
  • Infertility
  • Laparoscopic surgery
  • Menopause
  • Oncology
  • Pap test screening
  • Prenatal care
  • Preventive care
  • Reconstructive surgery
  • Reproductive endocrinology
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Ultrasonography
  • Umbilical vein sampling

Obstetrician gynecologists are also active in academic circles and participate in conferences and publications dedicated to advancing medical knowledge and therapeutic options. 

In obstetrics and gynecology, where all the patients are women, so too are most of the physicians. Patients can choose a physician by sex, race, or any other factor, and many women—both doctors and patients—feel more comfortable talking about intimate health topics with other women. In 2018, a Los Angeles Times study found that 82 percent of OB/GYN residents were women.

How Do You Train to Be an OB/GYN?

An OB/GYN must first become a medical doctor by graduating from a four-year medical school—such as the Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM). The doctor must then complete a four-year residency in obstetrics and gynecology. Qualified candidates are then certified by the ABOG. A board-certified OB/GYN may then become a Fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (FACOG).  Doctors who want to subspecialize in a specific area of obstetrics/ gynecology must take additional fellowship training approved by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education or the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. Fellowships last between two and four years, during which OB/GYN’s may study such subspecialties as:

  • Addiction Medicine
  • Breast Health 
  • Critical Care Medicine
  • Complex Family Planning
  • Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery
  • Gynecologic Oncology
  • Hospice and Palliative Medicine
  • Maternal–Fetal Medicine
  • Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology
  • Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility
  • Urogynecological Surgery

A second path to obstetrics exists through family medicine. After medical school, a doctor can do a family medicine residency and then subspecialize in obstetrics. Doctors trained in Family Medicine with Obstetrics are certified by the Board of Certification in Family Medicine Obstetrics through the American Board of Physician Specialties. Family medicine obstetricians are primary care specialists qualified to handle all aspects of obstetrics. They are particularly needed in rural areas that may not have OB/GYN services nearby. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) reported in 2017 that half of all counties in the United States lack a single OB/GYN.

A Career in Obstetrics/ Gynecology

OB/GYN’s may work in a clinic, hospital, medical office, or university, and some have their own private practice. You may be curious to know what an OB/GYNs definition of a normal day is. OB/GYNs spend most of their time seeing patients, assisting in childbirth, or performing surgery and other medical procedures. Meetings and administration tasks absorb time, and hours are spent consulting with other specialists, doing research, studying, and teaching. Some obstetricians and gynecologists work a typical 40-hour week, while others work much more. Hours will vary according to the scope of practice or emergencies and complications that may arise during pregnancy and delivery. OB/GYN’s from different institutions often form call groups to give individual physicians greater flexibility while on-call away from work.

Because OB/GYNs are needed for a wide variety of women’s health issues, they can have a great impact on the individual lives of patients as well as overall community health.

Demand for OB/GYNs

The demand for OB/GYNs is as certain as the occurrence of pregnancy and women’s reproductive health issues. In other words, OB/GYNs will always be needed. And OB/GYNs—like doctors in all medical fields—are an aging population. As those doctors retire, there will be an increasing shortage of OB/GYN specialists. In July 2020, an Association of American Medical Colleges report showed that one third of United States physicians are age 60 or older, and well over half—57 percent—are over 50 years old.

The Ross University School of Medicine has a strong history of placing graduating students in medical residencies. In 2020, RUSM’s 2019-2020 first-time residency attainment rate was 95 percent. Now that you know what an OB/GYN does you can now make the decision on whether becoming an obstetrician/gynecologist is  the right career for you! Take the next step on your path to a specialization in obstetrics and gynecology: apply for admission to RUSM.

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In 2020, 91% of RUSM students passed the initial step of the United States Medical Licensing Examination® (USMLE®) on the first attempt. And in 2022-2023, results show yet another strong year for RUSM with a 97% first-time residency attainment rate* thus far. Located on the island of Barbados and with a network of more than 15,000 alumni, RUSM is one of the largest providers of doctors for the U.S. healthcare system. RUSM graduates practice in all 50 states and in Puerto Rico.

*First time residency attainment rate is the percent of students attaining a 2023-24 residency position out of all graduates or expected graduates in 2022-23 who were active applicants in the 2023 NRMP match or who attained a residency position outside the NRMP match.