Physician assistant Stephanie Howard is going mobile, taking her gynecological expertise from the exam room at Parkwest Women’s Specialist to Facebook.
“There’s a lot of false information at our finger tips,” Howard said. “It only takes having sex one time to change the rest of your life.”
It’s an effort to reach her most vulnerable patients — teenagers, and a tool to help parents.
“One really common thing I hear all the time is when do I need to bring my daughter in to see you and can you talk to her about intercourse?” Howard said.
She created the Comprehensive Teenage Female Health Education closed Facebook page to help answer those questions. Her goal is to empower young women with knowledge, respect and ownership of their bodies.
“They can go into their bedroom, shut the door and have a safe place and not feel judged, feel embarrassed learn real information that’s true," she said.
The private page features a 4-week, 4-part video series designed for 8th through 12th graders.
“This was such a valuable resource,” said Linda Kirby.
She and her daughter, Alex, watched the videos together before she started college.
“I learned a lot as well,” laughed Kirby.
Kirby said she was naive in college and didn't want her daughter to make the same choices.
“I got pregnant while I was in college,” she said. “That’s a big part of what drove me to this."
The videos cover a lot of topics like male and female anatomy.
“We talk about what’s normal, what’s not normal,” Howard explained. “They’re all very unsure about their bodies at this age.”
It also discusses intercourse and sexually transmitted diseases.
“And, all of those myths associated with that because there are lots of myths associated with those infections," Howard said.
As well as birth control and abstinence.
“What it means as well as consent and what that means,” Howard said.
“She provides just the information and as a parent I can then lay over our values, our family values on top of that,” added Kirby.
Howard also addresses dating and relationship red flags.
“I like to stress this is your body. Respect yourself because anybody who loves you or cares about you or says that they do is never going to make you do anything that you don’t want to do,” she said.
So far, dozens of teens have completed the course, which includes direct access to Howard through email or FaceTime.
“I really feel like she came away with a lot of confidence in knowing how to take care of herself,” Kirby said about her daughter.
And Howard believes that knowledge is power.
“They’re more likely to stand up and they’re more confident in their decisions to say, ‘Hey, I don’t want to do that,'" she said.
The month long Facebook membership is $25 dollars. Registration information is available at www.parkwestmds.com.
Howard would love to create a similar class for teenage boys, too.