You can’t hear Marie Savard say “vaginal” on television at 8 a.m. anymore, but you can read about her views on women’s issues in her new book, Ask Dr. Marie: Straight Talk & Reassuring Answers to Your Most Private Questions.
Savard — internist, speaker and author — explained that once, after an early-morning appearance on air, she was told that she would have to give the producers a heads-up the next time she was going to use the word.
Savard relayed this story and more at an event last night at the Penn Bookstore hosted by Penn Alumni Relations. During her talk, Savard informed a crowd on issues ranging from cervical cancer and the human papillomavirus to patient education.
Years ago, Savard said, doctors frequently over-prescribed antibiotics for women, which often caused yeast infections. Today, doctors know to prescribe women smaller doses, but errors like this call for women to educate themselves on intimate issues. Most young women, for instance, do not know that they should take a PAP test three years after becoming sexually active.
Savard is determined to bring women’s health to the spotlight, particularly because it was seldom discussed in her days. “You never talked about it,” she said. “You never thought about women’s health in terms of all aspects, whether it’s heart disease or bone disease or taking hormones.”
Savard stressed that studies have shown that most sexually active women will be exposed to HPV at some point in their lifetimes. Before the 1940s, Savard explained, cervical cancer was the leading cause of death in women in the United States. It is now the second leading cause.
In addition, Savard found during a study that one in four young girls had sexually transmitted infections. “These girls have no idea of the risks of oral sex,” she said.
She advised all women to get screened for HPV, although she emphasized that everyone is different and “you don’t do the same test on anybody.
Elizabeth Kimmelman, a representative from Penn Alumni Relations, said, “I think Dr. Savard is just a really engaging speaker and she has a way of engaging with her audience as a real person and not just as a doctor.”
For some, Savard’s discussion may have seemed too blunt, but her objective is just that — to educate the general public on the realities of women’s health issues.
Tamara Bockow, a second year Penn medical student, said, “the way [Savard] speaks so candidly about women’s health is very important and very necessary for the health of future women and health care providers.”