Given that my post-graduation plans involve attending medical school, I want to study a disease that is within the specialty that I’m interested in. Although most would say it is early to know what type of physician I would like to be, I have been thinking about family medicine and OB for a really long time. Therefore, I found three different types of OB/GYN diseases that I am very interested in: cervical cancer, gestational diabetes, and postpartum depression.
- According to the NIH, cervical cancer was one of the leading causes of death in women in the 1940s. Nowadays, this disease is ranked at number 14 on the list of frequency of cancers – in other words, it is no longer a major cause.1 This decrease is mostly thanks to the invention and implementation of routine Pap smears, which screen for cancerous cells in the cervix.2 In addition, in 2006, a vaccine was developed for the main cause of the cancer – HPV (human papillomavirus) – and since has been given to pre-adolescents to further prevent the spread of the virus.3 It would be very interesting to study this disease from a biochemical perspective by exploring topics such as how the vaccine works, why immunodeficiency is a risk factor, and also the mechanisms behind HPV.
- Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is the onset of diabetes in pregnant women. The CDC lists its prevalence in the United States to be between 2% and 10% each year.4 The exact cause of GDM is not known, however it has been linked to the high prevalence of pregnancy hormones in the blood, which then impede insulin and heighten blood glucose levels. Researchers have yet to figure out why only some women develop it, although there are known risk factors.5 What personally fascinates me about this disease is first, the biochemistry behind how pregnancy hormones impede insulin, second, why only some women have it, and third, how the body readjusts rather quickly post-delivery, as the majority of women with GDM do not have it after delivery. The insulin pathway is something that has always interested me, and I’d really like to explore how pregnancy affects it.
- Sometimes incorrectly referred to as the “baby blues,” postpartum depression affects approximately 1 in 9 women according to the CDC.6 The steep drop in hormones post-delivery leading to chemical changes in the brain combined with lack of sleep are potential causes of this mood disorder, however a definitive cause is unknown.7 I would be very interested in researching postpartum depression as I would like to discover more about the relationship between the drop in hormones and chemical changes in the brain. It is a serious however stigmatized disorder that affects a lot of women, thus I would like to understand it to a great capacity.