Editor’s Note: In 2013, FACTS began to train speakers to provide the presentations we created to share the science of fertility awareness-based methods (FABMs) with medical professionals, students, and the public. We have equipped more than ninety speakers to share the FACTS in their medical schools, residency programs, hospitals, clinics, nursing schools, universities, and communities throughout the United States and internationally.
This year, we have featured a FACTS-trained speaker monthly to highlight the diversity and depth of knowledge of our talented pool of experts. Our series continues with Dr. Pearl Huang-Ramírez, a family physician and educator who is, quite literally, the reason FACTS exists. We know you will enjoy the story of how a simple conversation with Dr. Marguerite Duane, executive director and co-founder of FACTS, became the cornerstone of this important work.
Meet Pearl Huang-Ramírez, MD
Dr. Pearl Huang-Ramírez has been a board-certified family physician since 2001 and practices medicine at St. Cloud Medical Group in Kissimmee, FL. She is grateful to work in an office that offers natural family planning (NFP)/FABM classes regularly to the community. She earned her undergraduate and medical degrees from Brown University and completed family medicine residency in Lancaster, PA.
Dr. Huang enjoys caring for the whole family and strives to care for the whole person — mind, body, and spirit. She is proud to be a medical consultant for the Creighton Model, which teaches women to monitor their reproductive health and helps women and couples with infertility and other common health concerns like polycystic ovarian syndrome. As one of the first FACTS-trained speakers, Dr. Huang enjoys teaching medical students, physicians, and other medical professionals about the scientific evidence behind FABMs. In fact, it was Dr. Huang who first educated our co-founder about fertility awareness!
A Conversation Forges the Path to FACTS
“You never know the impact your words will have.” This is what Dr. Duane had to say when asked about the early days of FACTS. She was referring to Dr. Huang, the senior resident on call when she was an intern twenty years ago. Rarely on call on the same day, a schedule change meant the two worked together that pivotal night that forged the path which led to FACTS.
“We were on OB call together one night,” recalls Dr. Duane. “I was getting our postpartum women ready to go home the following morning, so I was writing their prescriptions for birth control like we always did. Dr. Huang was teaching me how to counsel postpartum women about breastfeeding and reminded me that oral contraceptives can affect their milk supply. This evolved into a conversation about potential side effects of artificial birth control and how, for instance, Depo injections can cause prolonged postpartum bleeding, so it may be better to wait until six weeks after childbirth rather than giving it immediately postpartum.”
Dr. Huang then asked matter-of-factly, Did you know there is a form of family planning with no medical side effects? Perplexed, Dr. Duane replied, “‘What? Everything has side effects. Even condoms can cause a local reaction. What are you talking about?’ And Dr. Huang explained that women can learn to chart their cycles and observe signs that signal their fertility is returning.”
A Turning Point
Dr. Duane listened and wondered how this could even be possible, that something so vital could be left out of medical training. They talked about the Creighton Model and other FABMs through which women can track their cervical mucus as a sign of fertility. “And I had no idea what she was talking about,” recalls Dr. Duane, but this conversation became the foundation for many discussions with other physicians knowledgeable about FABMs.
As with that very first conversation, Dr. Duane asked questions, did her own research, learned to chart her cycle from a trained instructor, and educated herself as much as she could about fertility awareness. Over time, she felt convinced the next step was to make this information available to all medical professionals, beginning in medical school. And in 2010, through the support of the Family Medicine Education Consortium and dedication of various medical professionals, including Dr. Huang and co-founder, Dr. Bob Motley, FACTS became a reality.
Letting the Evidence Speak
“Dr. Huang opened the door to this world I didn’t know existed,” Dr. Duane explains while reflecting on her senior resident’s teaching style. “Yet, I was receptive because of her gentle way of sharing the truth and the science behind FABMs. You can change the world with a soft whisper just as much — or even more — as with a mighty roar.” Such is the power of Dr. Huang’s approach in educating her peers about a subject that can be challenging to discuss accurately and without judgments. Her focus is simply on sharing a sound, evidence-based, effective option that many medical professionals have yet to discover, much less understand well enough to explain it to their patients.
Gentle, Effective Advocacy
In the early years of FACTS, shares Dr. Duane, “we were trying to educate the medical community about the need for physicians to learn about FABMs during residency. When the Congress of Delegates met later that year, Dr. Huang joined me in drafting a resolution to ensure residency programs include natural methods of family planning for residents to learn. Dr. Huang testified before the reference committee about how she uses FABMs in practice.” She shared her story, emphasizing that every physician should have the opportunity to learn this information so they may educate their patients. Dr. Duane admires her courage and willingness to step out of her comfort zone to advocate for fertility awareness education.
In Her Own Words
For nearly twenty years, Dr. Huang has worked in a family medicine practice that offers NFP/FABM education to their patients. “Looking at what’s going on in a woman’s monthly cycle is truly a fifth vital sign. I love working with women as they are empowered through charting to understand their bodies.
“In teens, we often see signs of early polycystic ovarian disease and can help them implement nutritional and lifestyle changes early on to delay or prevent some of the infertility and insulin resistance problems that may arise later. The mainstream medical world would likely place these teens on oral contraceptives or other hormones to ‘regulate’ their cycles without getting to the root of their issues. This means their cycles are suppressed for years, and often weight issues worsen.” Dr. Huang highlights the benefits of charting for women in all stages of their reproductive years. “Certain patterns we see by looking at a woman’s chart allow us to do timed hormone analysis and ultrasound evaluations to help restore her cycle back to health.”
Thinking back to medical school, she feels fortunate to have sought information about FABMs back then. “(Fertility awareness) was not taught in medical school other than a brief mention of the outdated rhythm method. For this reason, I strongly encourage anyone in medical training as well as physicians and other health professionals to be open to the evidence about these methods. In this age when so many patients want ‘natural’ and ‘holistic’ treatments, it is truly a service to have knowledge of these methods. Doing the 2-week FACTS elective or shadowing physicians who incorporate these methods in their practices are great ways to experience how rewarding this is.”
Dr. Huang enjoys teaching via FACTS webinars as well as live presentations. She feels “the most meaningful aspect of working with FACTS has been seeing how we are impacting women’s health by educating medical professionals through our presentations to empower the health of women and couples. I was always so frustrated that hardly any attendings or colleagues knew anything about how effective fertility awareness methods can be — not just for family planning, but also for women’s health. Seeing FACTS fill that void in medical education is so rewarding.”
She enjoyed a recent trip to her residency reunion where Dr. Duane, Dr. Miller, and Dr. Huang presented the 5th Vital Sign FACTS lecture to fellow family physicians. While attending last year’s annual FACTS meeting in New York, she felt inspired by all the progress made in reaching out to the medical community. She enjoyed presenting for the medical students at University of Florida College of Medicine and facilitating a roundtable discussion on FABMs at a Society of Teachers of Family Medicine (STFM) meeting.
“What strikes me at all these presentations is that so many physicians are shocked they were never taught how effective and useful these methods are for patients. I love getting the word out about FABMs and truly see how it helps us honor a woman’s health. A big shout out to Dr. Duane and all those amazing people who help run FACTS as their united passion is helping to truly transform women’s health.”
Greatest Contributions to the Mission of FACTS
“FACTS would not exist without Dr. Pearl Huang-Ramírez,” affirms Dr. Duane. “You don’t need to be a loud, attention-seeking person to make a difference in this world. Your quiet thoughtful words can impact someone deeply and change a life, which in turn can change the lives of many others. We still joke about that night on call. We laugh because Pearl has no recollection of having that conversation, which also reflects who she is. Dr. Huang shares the truth softly with people who are willing to listen. She wasn’t seeking to change my opinion; she didn’t have an agenda or motive.” She was simply sharing what she knew was available to women and couples that was not taught regularly in medical school or residency.
A Personal Note from the Editor
As senior writer and editor for FACTS, one of the highlights of my career has been working with Dr. Huang in a family medicine practice and watching her serve our patients and community with such excellence and grace. Her patients love her, as do her colleagues, staff, and the residents and medical students who rotate with her. Her compassion and thoughtful care are genuine expressions of a deep commitment to every person she treats. A natural encourager and gentle soul, Pearl manages to make people feel loved and cared for by her very presence.
I also have Dr. Huang to thank for the privilege of serving as senior writer and editor for FACTS. I am grateful she introduced me to Dr. Duane, giving me the opportunity to work with outstanding medical students, residents, physicians in practice, and nurses, become a trained speaker for FACTS, assist with our online electives, and meet so many dedicated and exceptional medical professionals over the years through FACTS.
Dr. Pearl Huang-Ramírez is a gift to her patients, to our profession, to her community, and to FACTS. We are honored to have such an outstanding physician and special human being as the fuel that not only ignited the fire that led to FACTS but who is also a generous benefactor, and remains an integral part of all we do.
More About Pearl Huang-Ramírez, MD
Dr. Huang is a devoted wife and mother who is deeply committed to her patients and community. She enjoys working with teens and facilitates the Theology of the Body for Teens program, which teaches middle and high school students about fertility awareness. She is the backbone of local young adult groups and a respected community advocate and educator, which is enhanced by her fluency in Spanish and Mandarin Chinese. She cherishes time with her husband and family and keeps very busy with their four children.
Editor’s Note: Consider joining Dr. Huang-Ramírez in supporting our important work by donating to FACTS so more medical and health professionals have access to up-to-date information about fertility awareness. With your help, our resources will soon include an online database to enable women and couples to find FABM-trained medical professionals and educators in their communities. Your support will make this possible. Thank YOU!
Our NEW 2020
Click on the dates below to register for our new 1-hour webinars, then forward this to a colleague or friend to help us spread the word!
Join Us for Our Core Webinars and Earn CME Credit!
Below are the webinars we offer every month.
To REGISTER, click on the dates below, then share and invite a colleague!
The Female Cycle as the 5th Vital Sign
This presentation highlights the health of the female cycle and how the fertility awareness chart can aid in the diagnosis and management of common women’s health concerns.
Friday, May 8th, 2:00 pm EST
Thursday, June 4th, 4:30 pm EST
The Signs of the Female Cycle Explained
Designed for a general audience, this presentation reviews the science of charting a woman’s cycle and discusses benefits of using FABMs to monitor health, and how to choose the method that may be best for you!
Tuesday, May 12th, 7:00 pm EST
Wednesday, June 10th,12:00 pm EST
The Science Behind Fertility Awareness
Our flagship presentation, Fertility & Family Planning, reviews the latest research and science supporting FABMs and their effectiveness to prevent and achieve pregnancy.
Thursday, May 21st, 1:00 pm EST
Save the Dates!
October 1, 2020
FACTS 10-Year Gala | Washington, DC
Join us to celebrate
a Decade of Sharing the FACTS
and to look ahead to the next 10 Years!
October 2, 2020
FACTS CME Conference | Washington, DC
Modern Fertility Awareness for Women’s Health and Family Planning
Our 1-day conference is designed to equip medical and health professionals to offer more holistic and restorative healthcare options for women. Learn more about FABMs and their applications in women’s health and family planning. REGISTER today!