He was 17 and had come to Johns Hopkins’ Harriet Lane Clinic for a routine physical.
The pediatric resident who took the young man’s medical history asked him if he was a father or had ever gotten somebody pregnant. The teen said his girlfriend was due to have a baby in a couple weeks.
“We congratulated him, reviewed with him his needs and any concerns but made sure that we discussed his reproductive life plan and, based on this, provided him and his partner with appropriate family planning services,” recalled Arik Marcell, MD, MPH, assistant professor with the Bloomberg School’s Center for Adolescent Health and a teen health expert with the Hopkins Children’s Center, who was supervising the clinic visit.
When it comes to male teens, this type of doctor-patient interaction is hardly typical. Far too often, said Marcell, medical providers fail to initiate discussions about sexual and reproductive health with adolescent males, a subject that care providers frequently raise with teen girls.
Had the doctor not asked his 17-year-old patient about fatherhood and pregnancy, he would not have known about the imminent and transformative event facing this young father-to-be.
“They’re not routine questions for boys, and I don’t see why they shouldn’t be,” said Marcell, whose recent lecture on the topic at the School was entitled “Sexual and Reproductive Health Care: What About the Young Male?”
“It’s really on us to bring these topics up as part of our work with young men in clinical settings,” he said.
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