Newswise — After a nationwide search, Cynthia Gyamfi-Bannerman, MD, has been named chair of the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences at University of California San Diego School of Medicine and UC San Diego Health.
“We are beyond grateful to have Dr. Gyamfi-Bannerman join our faculty,” said Steven Garfin, MD, interim dean of UC San Diego School of Medicine. “She brings strong leadership, a breadth of knowledge and a highly respected reputation that aligns with the goals and vision of UC San Diego.”
Gyamfi-Bannerman joins the faculty from Columbia University Irving Medical Center, where she spent the last 16 years of her career, most recently as the Ellen Jacobson Levine and Eugene Jacobson Professor and vice chair for faculty development in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
She said she chose UC San Diego because of its innovative research environment, rich leadership history and remarkable patient care.
“UC San Diego is exemplary. The faculty has had, and continues to have, some of the greats in the field of obstetrics and gynecology, and it is an honor to work alongside them and serve as the new chair,” said Gyamfi-Bannerman.
“It is of the utmost importance to me that I am part of an academic medical center where leading edge research and clinical care are combined — a place where patients have the opportunity to enroll in clinical trials and receive life-saving treatments. Doing right by our patients is my number one priority.”
As a board-certified maternal-fetal medicine specialist, Gyamfi-Bannerman is internationally recognized for her work in obstetric complications, with a primary focus on preterm birth, both in prevention and in the use of antenatal corticosteroids, or steroids.
She is also a perinatal epidemiologist with a Master of Science degree in biostatistics, answering clinical questions using available clinical data. In her leadership roles with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, she has co-authored numerous clinical guidelines for obstetric practice.
“Our department welcomes Dr. Gyamfi-Bannerman and looks forward to working with her to advance our tripartite mission in research, education and clinical care, as well as learning from her extensive experience,” said Linda Brubaker, MD, a urogynecologist at UC San Diego Health who has served as interim chair since July 2020.
As the SARS-CoV-2 virus spread throughout the United States, New York City became an early epicenter. Gyamfi-Bannerman and her team at Columbia University reported on the first cases of pregnant women infected with the virus, identifying atypical and asymptomatic presentations in this patient population and the need for personal protective equipment. Her experience resulted in becoming co-chair of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ COVID Task Force.
“We developed national guidelines based on minimal data, doing the best we could in those circumstances,” said Gyamfi-Bannerman. “The need for data regarding pregnancy became obvious, and we tried to fill that void with our observations of the pandemic in March and April of 2020.”
She says medicine was always in her blood. Her uncle was dean of the University of Ghana Medical School at Korle-Bu, and her great-uncle was the first credentialed surgeon in West Africa.
Her father is an anesthesiologist who advised her to go into a field that would truly make her happy.
“My father told me that I would have to wake up every morning and go to a job, so I needed to make sure it was a job that fulfilled me. It was the best advice I have received,” said Gyamfi-Bannerman.
She earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Miami and her medical degree at the University of Miami School of Medicine. She completed her residency in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Miami, Jackson Memorial Hospital and her fellowship at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City before joining the faculty at Columbia.
“I love the variety in the field of obstetrics and gynecology. We perform surgical interventions, treat complex medical conditions and bring life into the world.”
Born in Germany of Ghanaian descent, her diverse background has played an integral role in her life and career.
“My family is from Ghana, and my parents were both studying in Germany when they met and married. I came to the U.S. from Germany as a child, without speaking English, but my siblings and I quickly integrated into American life in Miami,” said Gyamfi-Bannerman.
As the director of the Maternal-Fetal Medicine Fellowship Training Program at Columbia University, one of the largest programs of its kind in the country, Gyamfi-Bannerman oversaw the training and development of future maternal fetal medicine physicians and was able to increase the program’s diversity. She also built out a research infrastructure where fellows routinely made national presentations and published work in top journals.
“I’ve seen first-hand the positive impact that diversity has within a department, and more importantly, on patients. It is wonderful and rewarding to see a patient relax or feel more comfortable when they see a doctor that looks like them, and they are able to connect on a deeper, intangible level,” she said.
“This inclusive model is one that I hope to emulate in leading the department at UC San Diego.”
It was that success that earned Gyamfi-Bannerman the role of vice chair for faculty development at Columbia University, in which she has mentored numerous students, residents, fellows and faculty.
As a National Institutes of Health-funded researcher, Gyamfi-Bannerman has conducted multiple clinical trials and has published numerous research papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals, including JAMA and the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
She was the lead author on a large, multicenter, randomized clinical trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine that found that antenatal administration of betamethasone, a type of steroid, to women at risk for late preterm delivery significantly reduced the rate of neonatal respiratory complications. These findings changed clinical practice in the nation and in many other parts of the world.
Gyamfi-Bannerman has been invited to speak about her research locally, nationally and internationally. She has served on several high-profile, professional committees and has been recognized with multiple honors and awards. She was named twice by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology for Research Excellence, received the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine research award and was elected to the American Gynecological and Obstetrical Society.
In her roles as chair at UC San Diego Health and the School of Medicine, she will provide leadership in multiple areas, supporting research across the spectrum of basic science to clinical and translational research, developing and implementing inclusive, impactful clinical programs and ensuring that the department’s exceptional educational programs flourish.
Her commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion will elevate the current work of the department’s Culture and Justice Quorum. She will work with other department chairs to implement and advance the strategic plans of UC San Diego School of Medicine and UC San Diego Health.
Gyamfi-Bannerman is married with two children. Her husband of 11 years, Christian Bannerman, MD, will also be part of UC San Diego Health as an emergency physician. She said their family is looking forward to moving to warmer weather, going on hikes and enjoying San Diego’s beaches.
UC San Diego Health is ranked among the nation's best for obstetrics and gynecologic care by U.S. News & World Report.
UC San Diego Health offers more options in childbirth than any other hospital in San Diego. From prenatal care and menopause to endometriosis and gynecologic surgery, UC San Diego Health experts provide the highest quality of care for every stage of life. UC San Diego Health was the first in the region to offer comprehensive care through the Women’s Pelvic Medicine Center to address issues such as urinary incontinence, vaginal prolapse and urinary tract infections.