Treating the Whole Man
Date: January 4, 2013
Perhaps thanks to former Senator Bob Dole’s pioneering 1999 commercial for Viagra, today’s airwaves are awash in advertisements for products dealing not only with erectile dysfunction but low testosterone, another condition affecting the sexual health of men.
Yet, according to Johns Hopkins urologist Kevin Billups, this new openness apparently has not changed the overall reluctance of men to go to the doctor’s office—or led them to recognize that difficulties associated with sexual performance could be important warning signs of life-threatening conditions.
Billups wants to change that. By establishing the new Integrative Men’s Health Program at Hopkins—likely the first of its kind in the country—he hopes to address directly what he considers “a silent crisis in men’s health that is affecting every community in America.”
More than 50 percent of premature male deaths in this country are due to preventable but chronic medical conditions, Billups notes.
“Erectile dysfunction and low testosterone often are associated with chronic illness, but they also can precede a major medical event, such as a heart attack or stroke by several years, offering an opportunity for early detection and prevention,” he says.
Over the past 25 years, Billups developed considerable skill treating erectile dysfunction, low testosterone and other men’s sexual health problems at the University of Minnesota. A 1984 graduate of the School of Medicine, he returned to Hopkins last July to join the Brady Urological Institute as an associate professor and to establish the Integrative Men’s Health Program.
“If you look at a lot of advertisements now for what people are calling ‘men’s health,’” says Billups, “they’re really just sexual medicine centers. Why not use our sexual medicine expertise as a way of engaging men into more proactive health care? Urology can play a central role—sort of like being the quarterback in terms of interactive and overall men’s health.”
Billups wants his new program to engage specialists in many fields, he says, “so there’s an appropriate referral to the other areas, whether it’s primary care, cardiology, endocrinology, the sleep center folks—wherever the men need to go.”
Billups has met with Thomas Donner, director of the Johns Hopkins Comprehensive Diabetes Center, Charlene Gamaldo, head of The Johns Hopkins Sleep Disorders Center, Roger Blumenthal in the Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease, and Steve Kravet, the head of Johns Hopkins Community Physicians. He also is working with Bill Baumgartner, vice dean for clinical affairs and former chief of cardiac surgery, who is helping him reach out to other departments and divisions.
“Kevin has a unique opportunity to bridge several departments and centers in an innovative approach to caring for male patients,” Baumgartner notes.
Billups was an early researcher into the connection between erectile dysfunction and cardiovascular disease—a link that now is well-established. In 2010, Alan Partin, director of the Brady Institute, invited him to give a Grand Rounds lecture at Hopkins.
After Billups outlined his ideas “of what urology should do in the area of men’s health and why we should be doing it,” Partin transformed the presentation into an offer to create the planned multidisciplinary men’s health program.
Billups hopes to establish a joint clinic that houses his sexual medicine practice with vascular medicine and cardiology at Johns Hopkins at Green Spring Station next year.
— Neil A. Grauer