Dr. Elisha Jackson with a patient

UTMB drives the field of urology to meet women’s health care needs

At UTMB Health, addressing the health care needs of women is a top priority. UTMB employs cutting-edge experts who specialize in a variety of specialties including urology, urogynecology, comprehensive women’s care and more.

For patients seeking treatment for a variety of issues including menopause health and wellness, incontinence, and other women’s specialist issues, the UTMB Women‘s Comprehensive Care clinic in Clear Lake offers a variety of services. 

Changing room at womens clinic

Dr. Tonya Callender is a board-certified family nurse practitioner and the director of the women's care clinic in Clear Lake. Callender said the multidisciplinary clinic offers different services and providers who were handpicked for the location.

Callender said the goal is to offer all services in a central location. She said many women are so busy and want to get as many things completed in one place as possible.

“As women, we are geared towards taking care of everyone else,” Callender said. “It’s nice to take care of women and make sure they get the care they need and make them feel comfortable.”

Callender said the clinic is a comfortable, welcoming environment where women can speak freely about their issues, fears, feelings and concerns. She said in addition to solving the physical issues, many women need to hear that they are not alone in their struggles.

Adjacent to the women’s care clinic is the Pelvic Health & Urogynecology clinic, one of the locations where  Dr. Gabriela Halder works as a urogynecologist, alongside one of her colleagues  Dr. Elisha Jackson. The pair also practice together at the team’s newest location in Pearland.

Dr. Gabriela Halder

Halder said she was drawn to urogynecology—or the study and treatment of female pelvic floor disorders—because she loves women’s health and believes women are underserved. She enjoys surgeries and fixing issues in a way that improves women’s quality of life.

“I have a lot of tools in my toolbox...and I think it’s really great to help women refocus on themselves,” she said. “I see all types of women who are busy with full-time careers or stay-at-home moms who manage everything, and it’s rewarding to help them when they’ve been focused on their families.”

Halder is also a native Spanish speaker and said she tries to understand her patients and their cultural values to meet their goals.

“After speaking Spanish throughout the appointment with a patient, she told me before she came to the appointment, she had prayed I would understand her,” Halder said. “In health care, you need a provider who understands you, especially when it comes to topics people aren’t comfortable talking about, like vaginas and bladders.”

Another one of Halder’s patients, Stephanie Hopkins, said Halder gave her her life back.

"My bladder problems took hold pretty rapidly,” Hopkins said. “I sleep in a loft and I couldn 't barely start down the steps and I'd void with no control whatsoever. I then used diapers. Still had issues. The entire experience was terrible and destroyed any self-confidence I had. I tried meds. They helped initially but my body would get used to them so fast.”

Halder said sometimes when women come to her, they are convinced she cannot help them, because nothing they have tried has worked. She said while she never guarantees she can cure something, there are always options to try.

“With Ms. Hopkins, she was one of those patients who had tried so many medications,” Halder said. “We gave her a little bladder pacemaker and she saw improvement. She said it was the first time in a long time she slept for more than 6 hours without having to run to the bathroom.”

Hopkins said the difference is night and day and the surgery changed her life.

“I truly cannot thank Dr. Halder enough for helping me through this entire process. I no longer take any medications for my bladder. I do not wear a diaper,” Hopkins said. “This was an absolutely life changing experience and I truly cannot speak highly enough of it. Anyone struggling like I was should absolutely consider this treatment."

UTMB is also focused on training and research in the field of urology. Dr. Bilal Farhan is an assistant professor, surgeon, and urologist with the UTMB Department of Surgery’s Division of Urology. He joined UTMB in 2019 and is passionate about pushing the field of urology forward.

“I love teaching and I believe we have to be generous and share our skills and knowledge with the next generation,” he said. “Knowledge is important and we have to educate the community about these issues.”

For Farhan, urology runs in the family. His father is a urologist and Farhan said he was a good mentor. Farhan said he enjoys that the field offers the opportunity for long term commitment to his patients.

“We’re dealing with a quality-of-life condition that affects patients,” Farhan said. “It's a hidden disease, and most women suffer from these conditions but are afraid or embarrassed to talk about it.”

For more information about the services and providers with the UTMB Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, visit the website here.

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