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Matthew Barker on the Society of Gynecologic Surgeons

Jun 27, 2017 10:59AM ● Published by MED Editor


Matthew A. Barker, M.D., F.A.C.O.G. earned membership into the Society of Gynecologic Surgeons (SGS) at the organization’s annual scientific meeting in March. To become a member of SGS, a surgeon must be nominated by an active SGS member, submit a case log of surgeries, present their research at the scientific meeting, and participate in research and teaching of advanced gynecologic surgery. The society as a whole then affirms the candidate’s membership based upon a vote.  SGS membership is highly selective with just over 250 members nationally.

Dr. Barker has been at Avera McKennan for eight years. He is a graduate of The University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine. He completed his residency in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics in Madison, Wisconsin, and his fellowship in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery at Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio. Dr. Barker is board certified in obstetrics and gynecology and in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery. He recently spoke with MED about his SGS membership and advances in gynecologic surgery.

MED: What is the goal of the SGS?

Dr. Barker: This organization started in the 1970s as a way to help everyone get better at gynecologic surgery. We want to do better procedures and get better outcomes. Often, this pertained to vaginal surgery which was at the time the most minimally invasive way to treat gynecologic disorders in women.

Over the last 30 plus years, it has developed into a society to promote research and understanding of surgical outcomes, research and education, training new surgeons, developing surgical skills, crafting guidelines for gynecologic surgery, etc.

MED: What is new in gynecologic surgery?

Dr. Barker: Minimally invasive surgery - laparoscopic and robotic - have taken the forefront of what’s new in gynecological surgery. We are now able to do hysterectomies, or cancer surgeries or treat prolapse with a laparoscopic or robotic technique.

What’s interesting as we have trained a whole new generation of gynecologic surgeons is that we are getting back to basics. Right now, the safest form of hysterectomy is a vaginal hysterectomy. It offers the least amount of complications, fastest recovery, and is the least expensive. Unfortunately, because of the way we are training, people aren’t getting enough exposures to vaginal surgery.

We live in a culture that equates technological advancement with better. But you can’t replace surgical principals. No matter how you do the surgery, you have to have knowledge and skills to do any of these techniques. Getting harder to learn all of these techniques in a 4-year residency. You might not have enough exposure.

MED: How has this impacted the SGS?

Dr. Barker: This organization is undergoing a big change. There are basically two groups of surgeons - vaginal surgeons and laparoscopic surgeons. It is interesting to see how these two groups complement each other. There are roles for both and the society is helping to promote that. They have written standards, formed focus groups, and analyzed the literature. Now we are talking about how we should talk to a patients and recommend surgical procedures to them.

MED: How do you feel about being a part of the SGS?

Dr. Barker: I think it’s neat because for whatever reason there has never been another member ever in our state [with the exception of Dr. Brooks Ranney, who helped establish the organization in 1974].

The whole organization is about striving to be better. You are constantly trying to be better at what you do. You have to be careful because any new procedure that has been done in women’s health has been associated with controversy and complications. What SGS does is hold those advancements to safety and quality and improvement in surgical outcomes.

MED: How does South Dakota rank nationally in terms of gynecologic surgery?

Dr. Barker: I think because of my experience and being the only fellowship trained urogynecologic surgeon in the state, US News ranked our program at Avera nationally in 2013 and 2014. In this area of expertise, Avera has ranked higher than anyone else in the region. We are very proud of that.


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