Sheila Overton, MD ’83, a board-certified ob/gyn, has worked passionately to educate parents, teens, teachers and health professionals about teen sexual health. She chaired a teen-pregnancy-and-STD-prevention program at Kaiser Permanente for more than 10 years. In 2000, Dr. Overton received the Los Angeles County Commendation for Excellence in Women’s Health. She is the author of Before It’s Too Late: What Parents Need to Know About Teen Pregnancy and STD Prevention (iUniverse.com, 2010) and is in private practice in Maryland.
My journey toward becoming a physician began in nursing school. Earning a BS degree in nursing in 1979, before completing my medical training, has given me a keen appreciation for both roles and the importance of synergy between them. Early in my training, I embraced the principles of incorporating social justice and community service into the practice of healthcare, which strongly influenced my work in the area of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease (STD) prevention.
Teen-pregnancy rates have dropped, which is, of course, a good thing. But the reduction in the teen-pregnancy rate isn’t enough for us to declare the problem solved. Every year, 7 percent of all teen girls get pregnant – a shocking and unacceptable statistic. And STD rates among teens continue to climb.
Taking care of pregnant teens provides an up-close, firsthand perspective on the cascade of health, economic and social problems that result when children become parents. Pregnancy is the leading reason that teen girls drop out of high school. They and their children are all too often relegated to a life of poverty.
Discussion of teen pregnancy and STDs centers largely on girls, but in my outreach to teens, parents, educators and community leaders, I also emphasize the critical need for teenage boys to understand the importance of making smart choices about their sexual health.