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New mom shares why she chose an academic medical center for her son's birth

Erin Conmy says VCU Medical Center’s nationally recognized OB-GYN team instilled trust throughout her pregnancy and the birth of her son because of their focus on evidence-based care and personalized support.

Mom and dad in hospital room with newborn Erin and Brian welcomed their son, Tilman, into the world in June 2023. (Contributed photo)

By Debbie Schumacher and Sara McCloskey

Erin Conmy knew she wanted to have her first baby at VCU Health because the clinical staff not only provide high-quality, compassionate care to their patients, they teach. As an educator herself, she fell in love with the knowledge sharing between clinicians, patients, families and the next generation of providers.

Patients, like Erin, see the educational environment as a major draw to the health system, with its flagship facility in downtown Richmond being the only academic medical center in the region.

Over the past decade, thousands of babies have been born at VCU Medical Center, with the number of families choosing this nationally recognized hospital going up year over year. At the heart of VCU’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology (OB-GYN) is a commitment to education and collaboration to ensure expecting mothers have the birth experience they want.

“As an educator, it’s very important that I surround myself with people that are constantly learning, innovating and really enjoying that process,” Erin explained. “The team was passionate about ensuring my voice was heard and my preferences noted while providing the best care. All my questions were answered, and they included my husband Brian in the process.”


Creating an environment that empowers families, like Erin’s, helps them to feel comfortable advocating for their needs. This is all part of the approach at VCU Health.

“Our culture of safety encourages team and family members to speak up if they have questions and/or concerns, and that helps to improve overall communication and prevent errors,” said Nicole Karjane, M.D., residency program director, who manages the next generation of physicians within VCU’s OB-GYN Department.

The atmosphere “as a teaching hospital is different than other hospitals,” Karjane added. That’s something that has not gone unnoticed by Erin and countless others who chose VCU Medical Center for their care.

The benefits of going to an academic medical center

Central to Erin’s positive birthing experience was the collaboration between the OB-GYN’s extensive team of doctors, midwives and nurses, combined with inclusion of the expecting parents in every conversation and decision.

Robin Lawson, women’s health nurse practitioner and former nurse manager of the Labor and Delivery Unit, says teamwork and clear communication help each patient receive the best care during one of the most memorable moments of their lives.

“Everyone is talking to each other all the time, making sure we are on the same page, keeping the patient in the loop of communication, and making sure their voice is part of the conversation,” Lawson said.

Erin pregnant standing near a parking sign for expecting mothers.

Erin Conmy has used VCU Health's services before and greatly values the level of care she received by the OB-GYN department. (Contributed photo)

This “culture of teamwork,” as described by Karjane, is a fundamental component of training residents as well as new members of the team. Having strong support for each other helps everyone take better care of patients.

“We have a robust patient safety and quality improvement process to make sure we are implementing systems-based processes to prevent adverse events and support optimal care and outcomes for our patients. And having many levels of learners also means that there are multiple medical professionals looking over our patients and making sure details are not missed,” Karjane said.

A resident is a medical school graduate who is completing post-graduate training for a specific health care specialty. Training for resident doctors takes place under the supervision of hospital staff for several years.

“We are proud to educate and train the next generation of physicians and researchers through our selective residency program. Our comprehensive four-year program ensures that residents are supervised throughout their training and prepared to deliver compassionate, evidence-based care that meets the highest standards of excellence,” said David Chelmow, M.D., chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Community doulas, nurses and medical students from Virginia Commonwealth University are some of the other learners observing and working closely with OB-GYN team members. Current VCU Health providers also regularly freshen up their skills with the most up-to-date, evidence-based approaches. These opportunities expose them to the latest advances in reproductive medicine, lactation, pelvic health and gynecological cancers, among other OB-GYN specialties.

As an educator, it’s very important that I surround myself with people that are constantly learning, innovating and really enjoying that process.

Erin Conmy, VCU Health patient

VCU OB-GYN residents are incorporated into the childbirth team, working alongside doctors, midwives, anesthesiologists, nurses and other support staff. OB-GYN team members are in the hospital 24/7, ensuring specialists are on site and ready when a pregnant person goes into labor.

Ayesha Yakubu, M.D., was one of the residents part of the childbirth team when Erin delivered. She enjoys the robust and vast learning opportunities VCU has to offer, adding that she attributes much of her growth as a skilled, socially conscious and culturally competent physician to the mentorship she has received from other residents and doctors who supervised her.

“Additionally, our patients come from various cultural and religious backgrounds so as a department we strive to honor a patient's cultural practices because it may impact how they receive and/or participate in their care,” Yakubu said.

Yakuba also had the unique experience of being on the other side of the special bond formed between a provider and patient. As with Erin and thousands of other patients, Yakuba welcomed her daughter Amina into the world at VCU Medical Center last year, receiving the same compassionate care she has learned to deliver from VCU’s OB-GYN team.

Impacting patient care now and in the future

When Erin chose VCU Health for this important time in her family’s life, her family became part of a dynamic community dedicated to shaping the future of maternal and neonatal care.

Educating the next generation of OB-GYNs is a special responsibility and privilege to Karjane.

“We are leading the way in working to reduce health disparities and strengthen our healthcare workforce. It is essential that we continue to have strong training programs like ours, where we train new physicians to provide outstanding OB-GYN care and help our patients optimize their outcomes,” she added.

Four people standing outside hospital with baskets of snacks.

To show how grateful they were for the care they received, Erin and Brian delivered thank you notes and snacks to the OB-GYN department. (Contributed photos)

In addition to the collaborative care from her doctors, the nursing team was instrumental in educating and providing individualized care to Erin during her long labor to give birth to a little boy, whom they named Tilman. With this level of personalized guidance and support before, during and after birth, Erin and Brian felt confident and prepared to go home with their newborn son.

Recognizing how the care they received was unlike any other hospital, Erin and Brian wrote personal thank you notes to each member of their care team and brought baskets of treats for the entire department to enjoy. They also made a donation to support continual teaching in honor of the staff.