After being diagnosed with endometrial cancer at an outside hospital, Alicia Gonzales Grimaldo, a forty year-old mother of five was denied surgery due to lack of health insurance. As a result, she had given up any hope of getting the treatment she desperately needed, but that all changed when she came to the Highland Hospital outpatient obstetrics and gynecology clinic at the Wilma Chan Highland Hospital Campus (WCHHC).

“I was incredibly scared and I knew without surgery I was certainly going to die from cancer,” said Gonzales Grimaldo. “I had been in terrible pain for almost a year and that day at Highland my hope was restored. I owe it all to the amazing medical staff on the gynecologic oncology team.”

Before coming to Highland, Gonzales Grimaldo said she felt ignored and disrespected by her previous health care provider. By contrast, she shared that Reena Cho, nurse practitioner (NP) in obstetrics, midwifery and gynecology made her feel safe, seen and heard for the first time.

NP Cho helped guide Gonzales Grimaldo on her journey back to health and upon hearing of her condition immediately began to coordinate with the obstetrics and gynecology team to arrange for surgery. The team was able to expedite and successfully perform Gonzales Grimaldo’s surgery within a few weeks.

Today, she is cancer free and returns every six months for cancer surveillance visits. “I’m convinced that I wouldn’t be here enjoying my family and friends if it weren’t for the exceptional care I received from the minute I walked through the door at Highland Hospital,” she said.

Gonzales Grimaldo shared that she was initially hesitant to come to Highland because it was far from home and she was nervous about the quality of care and overall patient experience she might receive. Since then she has become an unofficial brand ambassador for AHS.

To spread the word and help others, she started posting about her medical journey at AHS and the exceptional care experience on her Facebook page. She actively urged anyone in a similar situation to seek out the gynecological oncology service at AHS.

(L to R): Heidi Chang, M.D. gynecologic oncology, Dimitry Lerner, M.D. gynecologic oncologist and Reena Cho, nurse practitioner in obstetrics, midwifery and gynecology

“Our gynecological oncology physicians are among the best in their field,” said Kevin Smith, M.D., and chair of obstetrics and gynecology, “In addition, we have a passionate team that works diligently to ensure that our patients receive the care they need in a timely manner because we know very well it can save lives.”

In 2012, Dimitry Lerner, M.D. gynecologic oncologist and Gonzales Grimaldo’s surgeon  started the gynecologic oncology service and since then the service line has grown to include Heidi Chang, M.D. gynecologic oncology surgeon who shared that she loves surgery but what she really treasures is the relationship she and the team have with their patients.

Dr. Lerner agrees. “My vision for the department is to provide patient-centered care that addresses the needs of each individual woman and honors their choices,” he said. “At AHS, we continue to strive to be a center of excellence in gynecologic cancer care for our patients and the community we serve.”

For more information about the AHS gynecological oncology service visit the, Gynecologic Fact Sheet 20230315 (