By Audrey Bailey
The word “puberty” can have the power to nearly silence a room. The topic itself can be perceived as uncomfortable, gross or even scary. But, for Dr. Erin Vilano, medical director of pediatric and adolescent gynecology at Riley Hospital for Children, this natural stage of development is an area of focus and importance.
Recently, Vilano hosted a group of mothers and their young daughters at the first Girlology informational session called “Something New About You,” at Riley Hospital. IU Health has partnered with Girlology to provide these services.
“We take girls through kind of a journey through puberty,” Vilano said. “We talk about breast development, body odor, acne, growth spurts, and then periods; so, all the things that happen to girls as they go through puberty. And, we try to present that information in a really accessible way.”
Vilano grew up in Toronto, Canada and first received her degree in Genetics at a hospital for sick children in Toronto. While working there, she became interested in pediatrics and decided that she wanted to focus on clinical care. From there, she received her M.D. from Albany Medical College in New York and went on to fulfill her residency at Wayne State University in Detroit. Dr. Vilano later completed a fellowship in pediatric and adolescent gynecology at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, before being offered a position in Indianapolis.
“Riley and IUPUI were sort of actively looking for a pediatric gynecology person, because there had never been one in Indiana before,” Vilano said. “I took up the offer, went there and took a look at the campus and loved it, loved the people, loved Riley, so here I am.”
Vilano is now the first practicing pediatric gynecologist in Indiana. She had already been familiar with the company Girlology, which specializes in programs designed for young girls and boys, before she decided to give them a call to see if they would be interested in bringing their services to Indianapolis.
“I really liked the approach they took to educating girls, because the focus is really on health and helping girls understand their bodies, along with self esteem and body image issues,” Dr. Vilano said.
And, according to Vilano, the inaugural informational session was a success, with both daughters and mothers getting engaged and interested in the topic of puberty.
“There were a lot of moms coming up after the session asking us when we would be offering this again, so they could let their friends know,” Vilano said. “So, I thought that was really positive, and great to see how engaged people were.”
Moving forward, Vilano wants to continue hosting these sessions and informing parents and young girls alike about the importance of developmental health. Along with this, she wants the community to recognize that pediatric and adolescent gynecologists are a viable option for addressing these needs.
“It adds a little bit of a different touch when you’re going to see somebody who only takes care of young girls,” Vilano said. “We want girls to be coming for the rest of their lives, and we want to make sure they have a good experience and learn how to talk about, think about and cure their bodies in a healthy way right from the beginning.”
For more on Girlology, visit girlology.com.