By Eric Wright

Major trends often start unheralded on the global stage. Few took notice of the Wright brothers’ inaugural flight and how many grasped the impact of the extracurricular project a student named Zuckerberg would have, as he worked in his Harvard dorm room inventing the social network? 2,500 years ago a Hebrew named Zacharias posed a timeless question, “For who has despised the day of small things?”

Small beginnings often have great consequences. One of those happened in 1908 when Florida’s first female physician opened a healthcare facility in Orlando, to not only treat illness, but with the farsighted mission of creating a healing environment and achieving whole-person health. The impact of Dr. Lydia Parmele was lost on no one when the new Florida Hospital for Women opened in January of this year.

Florida Hospital has been caring for women for more than 100 years,” observed Marla Silliman, senior executive officer of Florida Hospital for Women and Florida Hospital for Children. “Today we care for more women in Central Florida than any other health care provider. This new hospital is a symbol of our dedication to providing women across all generations with compassionate, world-class care.”

The hospital not only expresses a commitment; it also identifies a renaissance or perhapsa revolution that is happening in women’s health. The 12-story, 330-bed specialty hospital offers an environment and services tailored to the distinctive needs of women. Distinctive is the operative word. “The way physicians, nurses and other caregivers approach patient care at Florida Hospital for Women will be influenced by standards and protocols developed to specifically address the unique health needs of women. We are learning new things about medical applications for women all the time; we are looking at everything different,” Silliman explained.


Elaborating on this growing trend, Dr. Lori Boardman, the hospital’s Chief Medical Officer and Executive Medical Director of Women’s Health observed, “Research and medicine have only recently begun to recognize the differences between men and women down to the cellular level.”

Adding, “Florida Hospital for Women is committed to being an industry leader by working to better understand these differences through research and treatment, and by delivering individualized care for women throughout their lifetime.”

Boardman grew up in Central Florida where her father was a respected cardiologist. Initially she pursued a career in art history, before she became not only a physician, but has served in a number of executive/academic roles including the former Assistant Dean of Medical Education at the University of Central Florida, where she continues as a professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Describing her attraction to the field she said, “I was interested in taking care of women patients throughout the course of their lives. I also enjoyed the surgical side of it and the one on one interaction. Being an OB-GYN encompassed a lot of what I loved about medicine and it allowed me to focus on a number of different aspects of the medical field. I could do surgery, without being a surgeon exclusively.”

“As the primary caregivers and decision makers for families, we owe it to women to provide them with the most comprehensive, informed, advanced and compassionate care possible.”

“In my current role,” she continued, “the position provides the opportunity to look at women’s health in its totality. Where we are very good and where we have potentials for growth. Our philosophy is to look at a woman from the time she is very young, until the end; to be with her at the different points in the journey. We look at where disorders are more prevalent, like heart disease, and how we diagnose and manage women with those conditions, across the continuum. Mental health is another arena where we are beginning to focus, particular with pregnancy
and postpartum issues that women face.”

Dr. Boardman unpacked the differences, sighting the example of how a woman presents with a heart attack versus a man. “As a trainee, we were taught to look for symptoms that were characteristic in men, like the typical substernal chest pain, radiating down the upper extremities, associated with diaphoresis, which is sweating.” Women, she explained, may present with abdominal or back pain; so if someone goes to an emergency room with chest pains radiating down their arm, the EMS will immediately go into a heart attack response. But if they present with abdominal cramping or back pain, you may experience a costly delay in identifying the problem. “Also the tests that are run to determine heart damage, the values between men and women are significantly different,” she said.

Across the medical industry from drug dosages to diagnosis these differences are being studied and incorporated into treatment and training. Hence the need for such a unique facility and based on regional growth, it is none too soon.


“Central Florida has experienced immense growth in recent decades and today, we have a diverse and young population,” commented Eric Stevens, senior executive officer and administrator of Florida Hospital Orlando. “Projections show that by 2030, more than 2.6 million are expected to call Central Florida home. With this tower opening, we’re not only meeting today’s healthcare needs, but we are
preparing Central Florida for the future.”

The first phase of the hospital includes the opening of four floors. The first floor houses the Center for Women’s Wellness, which will include a high-risk breast cancer clinic, mammography services, lactation center, cardiac screenings and health classes. The first phase also includes the opening of 72 mother-baby rooms and high-risk OB rooms, labor and delivery suites, and three operating rooms.

Once all phases of the hospital are complete, Florida Hospital for Women will offer general and high-risk obstetrics, gynecology, a level-three NICU, the region’s only milk depot, oncology, surgery, breast care, cardiovascular care, wellness education and more. The hospital will also include Central Florida’s first comprehensive program for soon-to-be and new mothers suffering from depression and other mood disorders.

“We asked women in our community and our own employees how we could design a hospital that not only meets, but exceeds expectations,” said Kari Vargas, vice president of Florida Hospital Orlando. “We applied that feedback in designing the beautiful structure you see today.”