A Conversation with David Sheyn, MD, the New Female Pelvic Medicine Division Chief
February 15, 2023
Innovations in Urology | Winter 2023
At the start of the year, David Sheyn, MD, was named Division Chief of Female Pelvic Medicine at University Hospitals Urology Institute. Passing the torch is Adonis Hijaz, MD, Vice Chair of Academics and Research for the UH Urology Institute, and Lester Persky Professor of Urology at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. Dr. Hijaz is an internationally renowned physician-scientist in women’s health and urology. He will continue his clinical practice and ongoing research, funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
“I have known David since the early stages of his career — from the days he trained at University Hospitals, to the day he joined our department as a physician-scientist partner. His professional growth and leadership advancement have been remarkable, and as his former educator and mentor, I feel incredibly proud of this well-deserved appointment as chief of the division,” says Dr. Hijaz.”
An Associate Professor of Urology and Reproductive Biology at School of Medicine, Dr. Sheyn joined UH in 2020. Prior to that, he completed a four-year residency in obstetrics and gynecology and a three-year fellowship in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery at University Hospitals. He was also a member of the obstetrics and gynecology department at MetroHealth Medical Center.
“My goal is to follow in the footsteps of Dr. Hijaz, who has built this amazing program and research infrastructure for female urology,” says Dr. Sheyn. “I wish for any aspiring junior faculty to have a mentor like him. He has been supportive since I was a resident — and I wasn’t even a urology resident.”
Born in Lviv, Ukraine, Dr. Sheyn spent much of his childhood in Cincinnati. As an undergraduate, he was admitted into the dual degree program at the University of Cincinnati. His medical school interest was originally pediatric interventional radiology. “I spent a few years in radiology here at UH, but I wanted to have more direct ownership over patient care,” he says. “I liked being the end-of-the-line person making decisions, so I switched to OBGYN and planned to become a gynecologic oncologist.”
What led you to urogynecology?
My undergraduate engineering brain gravitated toward urogynecology because there are highly technical aspects to how we do reconstructions. However, the biggest draw was a tremendous opportunity to make an impact academically. There is a new wealth of research and industry funding for urogynecology, and many innovations and materials are coming to market. I am able to advocate for a large population of women who have been underserved for too long.
What are your goals as the new division chief?
Dr. Hijaz has led the charge in providing excellent urogynecologic care and securing grant funding. I plan to build on his clinical and academic success. I also want to focus on pelvic floor disorder in subspecialty service lines. We are working with our oncology department to help patients through chemo and radiation. Many individuals who complete cancer treatment experience pelvic floor sequelae, and we offer procedures that can help.
We're also working with our neurology colleagues to expand services to their patients, who often have unique needs or limitations. For example, we can now offer MRI-compatible neuromodulation to individuals with multiple sclerosis who were previously excluded from treatment. There is not a chronic condition that incontinence doesn't impact. We want to ensure pelvic floor disorders are not compounding ongoing health challenges.
What is the future of pelvic floor health?
We are working on an NIH-funded trial of laparoscopic versus vaginal suspension at the time of hysterectomy for prolapse. Another grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality is looking at treatment of urinary incontinence in the primary care setting. We have a few trials of novel, first-line treatments for overactive bladder that we are about to publish. Additionally, we are working on a better understanding of the brain-bladder connection in terms of the effects of the medications on memory and cognitive impairment.
What would you tell women about pelvic floor medicine?
I see women in my office every day who have been told that their pelvic floor challenges are an unavoidable consequence of childbirth or aging. Prevalence of urogynecologic problems is high, but I think we are becoming better at asking the right questions and making women aware of the wide range of available treatment options. I would say 95 percent of the people we care for are extremely happy with their symptom improvement. I was just telling a patient that I have never had someone come into the office and say, ‘I wish I hadn’t had the surgery.’ Our patients are happy and healthy and experiencing great outcomes.