Hitting the ground running: Dr. Debra A. Taubel leading new OB/GYN Residency Program at WMed

"."Dr. Debra A. Taubel spent her entire life in New York City.

“A born and raised New Yorker,” she says proudly.

Every milestone – personal and professional – occurred in the Big Apple. It’s where Dr. Taubel raised her children, where she went to medical school and completed her residency. It’s where she spent the last 17 years as a member of the faculty in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Cornell University.

Now, Dr. Taubel is writing a new chapter at WMed.

In October, she and her family, including her 11-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter, moved to Kalamazoo as Dr. Taubel became Program Director of WMed’s new OB/GYN Residency Program.

“I felt very needed and productive (at Cornell), it was just time to kind of spread my wings,” Dr. Taubel said. “I saw there was a brand new medical school and a brand new residency program and thought, ‘Wouldn’t that be amazing?’

“We can start our own culture, now I have the opportunity.”

Dr. Taubel’s first six months at WMed have been a bit of a whirlwind. Her work to build the new OB/GYN Residency Program began her first day on the job and less than seven months later – on April 27 -- the program was approved by the OB/GYN Residency Review Committee of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education.

The new residency program will welcome its first four residents in July 2018 and interviews for the slots are set to commence in October.

“I hit the ground running,” Dr. Taubel said.

In addition to her work on the new residency program, Dr. Taubel is an associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and, in March, she began seeing patients at the WMed Clinics at the Oakland Drive Campus, marking the first time ever that a full-service OB/GYN practice has been in place at the clinics.

“It needs to be a place where patients feel like they can come,” Dr. Taubel said. “That’s my vision, that’s a really fun practice.”

Dr. Robert Rebar, chair of the medical school's Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology who recruited Dr. Taubel from New York, said she had a reputation at Cornell as a physician who “was always willing to walk an extra mile for her patients.” He said her arrival to WMed fills what is “an obvious void” for graduate medical education in the community.

“What this residency will do for this community is strengthen the commitment of the medical school to women’s health," Dr. Rebar said.

Prior to her arrival to WMed, Dr. Taubel built an impressive resume as a physician and educator. She’s a Fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and a member of the Association of Professors of Gynecology & Obstetrics (APGO).

She earned her MD degree in 1995 from the State University of New York Downstate College of Medicine and then completed a four-year residency in OB/GYN at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital Center.

After residency, she worked for a short stint at St. Luke’s as an assistant attending and assistant clerkship director before joining the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University and New York Presbyterian Hospital as an associate professor in October 2000.

During her 17 years at Cornell, she received numerous awards for teaching excellence and, in addition to her duties teaching medical students and residents, she served as medical director of the Women’s Health Practice in New York City, a role in which she managed a staff of approximately 30 doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners and medical assistants at a clinic that saw 22,000 patient visits annually.

Dr. Taubel served as Associate OB/GYN Residency Director at Cornell from June 2007 to September 2016 and also was directly involved in third-year clerkships for medical students serving as Associate Clerkship Director from January 2003 to March 2013 and, later, as Clerkship Director from March 2013 to September 2016.

In 2002, she helped establish the Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, an institution that accepted its first class of medical students in 2003. More recently, before coming to WMed, Dr. Taubel served as Vice Chair of Education for the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Cornell from April 2016 until September 2016.

“I think I know what a good residency program is,” Dr. Taubel said. “I think I know what it takes as far as the academics and the clinical exposure … I also think that my experience has shown me I can see the characteristics of good clinical teachers.”

Dr. Taubel said she is excited about leading the new OB/GYN Residency Program at WMed and training physicians who will be part of buoying what she and Dr. Rebar called “a severe shortage” of physicians in the discipline. She and Dr. Rebar also are looking forward to The Match in 2018 when the program will welcome its first four residents.

At full strength, by 2021, the program will boast 16 residents who will see patients at WMed’s Oakland Drive clinic, as well as Borgess Health and Bronson Healthcare.

“The most important 16 are the first 16,” Dr. Taubel said. “The goal, the overarching goal and mission, is I want to train good clinicians who potentially have an interest in staying in the area to treat patients and being the future teachers of my residents and our students.

Both Dr. Taubel and Dr. Rebar said the new residency program will serve what is a growing need for OB/GYN physicians in the Kalamazoo area and Southwest Michigan. Dr. Taubel said the arrival of residents in 2018 also will improve education for MD students at WMed who will soon get the chance to be a part of an OB/GYN resident team during third- and fourth-year clerkships.

“We have a growing population in the area, we have two busy hospitals that could use people. Wouldn’t it be great to have someone who you know and trained? They know the area and, hopefully, they’ve settled in and have ties.”

Since moving to Southwest Michigan, Dr. Taubel and her family have settled into a new home in Portage. She said the move from Manhattan’s Upper West Side has brought about a bit of a culture shock for her and her children, however she appreciates the drastic reduction in the cost of living and not having to worry about the safety of her children the way she did in New York City.

“It’s a very different world there,” she said.