Dr. Rodriguez, a Rare Gem in Gynecology Care

Much like the incredible, one-of-a-kind pieces of art available each year at the American Craft Exposition (ACE), Gustavo Rodriguez, MD is a rare gem. A passionate medical professional, Dr. Rodriguez is well known for building rapport with his patients and providing them with the highest quality compassionate care. But, Dr. Rodriguez is also rare because of his specialty–gynecological oncology.

In 2013, the American Society of Clinical Oncology estimated that there are roughly 13,000 practicing clinical oncologists. Less than one percent of those oncologists are gynecological oncologists. Despite their small numbers, gynecological oncologists, like Dr. Rodriguez, make a big impact.

“It’s very important that [women] see a gynecologic oncologist for their care,” explains Rodriguez. “There’s published evidence in the medical literature that those women whose cancers are managed by a gynecologic oncologist have better outcomes.”

Gustavo Rodriguez, MD, NorthShore University HealthSystem with past and present Chairs of ACE.

Gustavo Rodriguez, MD, NorthShore University HealthSystem with past and present Chairs of ACE.

Despite this compelling research, the majority of women with uterine cancer, which is the most common form of cancer in the genital tract, are not treated by specialists. Dr. Rodriguez’s advice to patients is to seek out professionals who specialize in their type of cancer and to undergo treatment at “high volume centers,” or, rather, healthcare facilities that treat a lot of patients each year versus a small number of patients.

“We have a strong understanding of the disease and know the kinds of things that need to be done surgically and medically to address it,” he explains. “So, the outcomes are better.”

When Dr. Rodriguez isn’t impacting the outcomes for individual patients, he and his team are bettering the situation for women everywhere with their cutting-edge research into genital tract cancers.

One of the ambitious goals of NorthShore’s research program is to find a pharmacological way to effectively prevent ovarian cancer. This well-developed program has expanded upon on the established knowledge that use of the birth control pill dramatically lowers the risk of ovarian cancer. Through various studies, the team has explored what happens biologically that causes the pill to lower cancer risk.

“And what we discovered was, the pill, in a very dramatic way, turns on molecular programs that serve to clear genetically damaged cells,” says Rodriguez. “And so the discovery was that it is likely to be the progestin in the pill that is acting as a classic cancer-preventive agent in the ovary to lower ovarian cancer risk.”

ACE’s fundraising efforts are a big part of supporting this critical research.

“We’ve had years where grants that have already been funded have been cut a dire amount because of financial constraints within the government,” Rodriquez explains. “The funding we have from our Auxiliary and from other organizations has saved the day at times. If we didn’t have that kind of support, we would have had to shut down half our programs.”

Since the American Craft Exposition’s inception, it has raised nearly $5 million for ovarian and breast cancer research at NorthShore. Support Dr. Rodriguez’s work while finding exquisite pieces of American craft at the Chicago Botanic Garden September 25-27. Purchase your tickets today.

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