sHeroes: Dr. Iris Orbuch and Dr. Amy Stein are helping women reclaim their lives & raising awareness about endometriosis

Dr. Orbuch: My movement would be to help identify endometriosis in teens and adolescents to help stop needless suffering. On average women see eight doctors over a ten year period to get diagnosed with endometriosis. A decade of pain and frustration… that HAS to change. My movement would be to educate teens and adolescents, and those doctors caring for them, the following fact: that 70% of teens with painful periods have endometriosis. I would love to start a campaign letting teens know that ‘Painful Periods Are Not Normal’, and help them understand that finding an endometriosis specialist who performs Excision of Endometriosis is essential.
Dr. Stein: My movement would be educating on how physical therapy can dramatically help those who are suffering, and with that, help them to avoid unnecessary medications and surgeries. The medical mismanagement and lack of knowledge need to stop, and the medical maze that patients have to travel needs to be shortened. This is my calling card in life!

As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Iris Kerin Orbuch and Dr. Amy Stein. Dr. Iris Kerin Orbuch is the Director of the Advanced Gynecologic Laparoscopy Center in Los Angeles and New York City and co-author of the soon to be released book, “Beating Endo: How to Reclaim Your Life From Endometriosis”. Dr. Orbuch is regarded as one of only a handful of Endometriosis Excision Specialists across the country. Dr. Orbuch is an M.D. who heals each patient from an east meets west, mind-body, head-to-toe approach. Dr. Orbuch is the President of the Endometriosis Special Interest Group of AAGL; the largest international minimally invasive organization worldwide. Dr. Orbuch has published numerous medical journal publications, textbook chapters, and had a running column, ‘Ask Dr. Iris’ on Cosmopolitan.com, as well as being quoted in Cosmopolitan, Medical economics, U.S. World and News Report, Kinkly, CNN.com, Well + Good, Insider, Stylecaster, Bustle, Madison Magazine and more.

Dr. Amy Stein, DPT, BCB-PMD, IF, is the co-author of “Beating Endo: How to Reclaim Your Life From Endometriosis” (available for Pre Order at HarperCollins.com now), author of the award-winning book, “Heal Pelvic Pain”, and creator of the video “Healing Pelvic and Abdominal Pain”. Dr. Stein is the Owner and Founder of Beyond Basics Physical Therapy Midtown and Beyond Basics PT Downtown, New York City. Dr. Stein is one of the Founders of the Alliance for Pelvic Pain, a patient-oriented educational retreat. Dr. Stein served as President of the International Pelvic Pain Society in 2017, and had been on their Board and Advisory since 2008. Dr. Stein is a co-editor of Healing in Urology, and an author in many medical textbooks, including; Pelvic Pain Management, Female Sexual Pain Disorders: Evaluation and Management, Management of Sexual Dysfunction in Men and Women, and The Overactive Pelvic Floor. Dr. Stein lectures internationally, is featured in the “Endo What?” documentary, and has been featured by Dr. Oz, ABC’s 20/20, ELLE, Prevention, Parents, Women’s Health, More, the New York Daily News, and the New York Post.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Dr. Orbuch: As a child I loved playing video games! Stay with me… as I spent my summer vacations trying to rescue the princess on Super Mario brothers on the Nintendo platform, I developed some pretty admirable hand to eye coordination skills; essential for a surgeon! I was also an avid athlete, which again, played into the honing of that skill set. The first time I stepped foot in the operating room during medical school, I knew it was where I belonged, the blueprint having been formulated by my sporty and video-game-loving adolescent years!

Dr. Stein: During Physical Therapy school, I had a friend’s mother that had a total hysterectomy and ended up with severe bladder and bowel symptoms, pelvic and sexual pain and dysfunction.

At the time, I was trying to help figure out what was going on. My graduate school was Problem Based Learning, so my professors told me to ‘figure out’ what she could have. I don’t think they really knew either… but I had a hunch regarding the root of the problem, and one out of the four professors that I asked, agreed with me. Many MD’s, healthcare providers and physical therapists still don’t know what pelvic floor physical therapy is, and that it even exists.

The lack of knowledge, awareness and medical education for my friend’s condition, as well as millions of others, really sparked my interest in educating myself, and pursuing post-graduate training in pelvic health. In 2003, I opened my practice, Beyond Basics Physical Therapy, in NYC, dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of pelvic health conditions, in men, women and children. I’ve never looked back!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

Dr. Orbuch: The most amazing feeling is when a patient returns post surgery and they say ‘thank you for giving me my life back’. Most women with endometriosis live a lifetime of invisible pain, and often go on average 10 to 12 years from symptom onset to diagnosis. They suffer in silence with painful periods, painful sex, pelvic pain, intestinal symptoms such as constipation, diarrhea, painful bowel movements, infertility, as well as urological symptoms. Since we don’t have imaging that diagnoses endometriosis, patients undergo countless ultrasounds, CT scans and other imaging which all come back ‘normal’. This leads health care professionals to tell women there is nothing wrong with them, when in fact, they truly are suffering from endometriosis. I tackle endometriosis from a multidisciplinary approach; mind-body, head-to-toe, east meets west. When a woman returns for her post op appointment, I get very choked up to hear a woman smiling on the outside and smiling on the inside — that ‘thank you’ to me for giving her her life back is priceless.

Dr. Stein: It has been really rewarding and eye opening to watch my practice expand from 50 patients a week when I opened my doors in 2003, to today with 15 therapists and 250+ patients/week. Pelvic pain is more common than anyone thinks, and the number of patients we see reinforces this fact. Many women have been told it is ‘in their head’, even — to drink more wine, do yoga, as a means of a remedy to their pain. This is a real condition, and should not be brushed under the rug. The bottom line is, just really listen to your patients! That is what sets my approach apart from many.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Dr. Orbuch: As a resident, a chauvinistic attending physician kept referring to me as ‘Honey’ rather than addressing me by name as I was assisting him during a laparoscopic surgery. After being called ‘Honey’ a few times, I looked the Doctor in the eye and said, “My name isn’t Honey, it’s Iris.” From that moment, the doctor addressed me with respect. This was more of a funny story rather than a mistake, however, from this situation, I learned to treat everyone with respect, and to address each person properly.

Dr. Stein: My first office was in Times Square, because it was one of the cheaper places in Manhattan to have office space, essential when I was in startup mode. One of the first questions that a lot of patients would ask me is “Why are you in Times Square? One of the most stress-provoking areas of NYC?!”. At first, I didn’t know how to answer (because they were right), and managing patient stress is such a priority for me. However, I turned the situation into a positive. The first thing I teach my patients is deep diaphragmatic, relaxation breathing. From then on I would tell my patients: “if you can master your relaxation breathing in Times Square, you can master it ANYWHERE, because your stress isn’t going to go away. But you can learn how to manage it.” I truly believe that there are no mistakes, only lessons — and the ability to learn and adapt!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Dr. Orbuch: I offer gentle, compassionate and individualized care. That is so very important to me. When you visit my office, you won’t find a rushed, impersonal environment. Women enter my doors often feeling beaten down, and hopeless. Put simply, I am devoted to helping women live a productive and pain-free life. The cornerstone of endometriosis treatment — and what I have become known for — is surgical excision of endometriosis. I do however understand the importance of incorporating integrative medicine, such as combining eastern and western medicine approaches when walking that road to recovery with my patients. I spend a lot of time listening to my patients, and performing a comprehensive physical exam in order to devise the best plan of care for each patient. There is not — and will never be — a patient cookie cutter approach.

Dr. Stein: My practice, which includes all my staff, gets to the bottom of each and every patient diagnosis and treatment plan for their specific condition; we like to see each patient from wherever they are in their healing journey right through to the end. In order to achieve this, we do a lot of mentoring and education with all of our physical therapists, because it is essential to provide the best and top quality care to our patients. As a result, we have patients that fly in from all across the globe to seek out our expertise. The Physical Therapists at Beyond Basics Physical Therapy make sure that they have a connection with each patient, and that every patients feels comfortable and confident in their care. In addition, we recently won a publicity award for all the volunteer educational programs and health screenings that we provide, and the fundraising that we do throughout the year.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Dr. Orbuch: My labor of love, which I have been working on for the last three years, alongside my co-author Dr. Amy Stein, is our book due out June 25th, entitled “Beating Endo: How to Reclaim your Life From Endometriosis”. We have come together to create a unique and radically effective approach to Endometriosis. In Beating Endometriosis, we offer a comprehensive guide to ways in which the endo sufferer, working with skilled healthcare practitioners, can take charge of her disease, addressing the cascade of coexisting conditions that it generates — from muscle pain to gastrointestinal ailments to painful bladder syndrome — and cooling her central nervous system to reduce inflammation and ease her pain. I know this is the book that will make an impactful and positive difference to many, many women, worldwide.

Dr. Stein: Echoing my friend and co-author, ‘Beating Endo’ is going to help millions of women suffering from endometriosis and painful periods finally have access to tools that will transform their lives. I am so excited for this book! May is also Pelvic Pain Awareness Month, and I’m focusing on many educational and fundraising events to shed as much light as possible on this topic. I am also proud to announce that Pelvic Pain Awareness Month was initiated by the International Pelvic Pain Society, during my presidency. The International Pelvic Pain Society, is a non-for-profit organization, whose mission is to educate healthcare practitioners, increase awareness and research efforts in the diagnosis and treatment of abdomino-pelvic pain conditions.

With May being Pelvic Pain Awareness month, what advice would you give to women who are in chronic pain or were recently diagnosed?

Dr. Orbuch: Endometriosis is a major cause of pelvic pain in women, affecting 10% of women, close to 200 million women worldwide. Symptoms of endometriosis can be gynecological such as painful periods, painful sex, heavy bleeding, pain all month long, ovulatory pain, pain before, during or after her period; gastrointestinal such as constipation, diarrhea, bloating, painful bowel movements; urological such as painful urination, feelings of frequent urinary tract infections, frequency; musculoskeletal such as pain shooting down her legs, pain shooting up her vagina, squeezing around the anus or rectum Most women also report fatigue, and many present with other autoimmune diseases.

It often takes 10–12 years from symptom onset to diagnosis. Imaging painful periods month after month, for 10 years during your prime years… Imagine having painful sex for 10 years. My advice is to seek out an Endometriosis specialist who performs Excision of Endometriosis.

Dr. Stein: Find your team that listen and understand you, and believe you when you say you’re in pain. It takes time to find the right team — and to start feeling better — but there is hope and resolution available. Research the educational sites, and steer away from negative social media forums.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

Dr. Orbuch: If you are passionate about what you do, you will succeed. Look for team members who are just as passionate about your goal, to make it a common goal.

Dr. Stein: Keep up with the latest education and research. Support and mentor your team as best you can, and listen to their needs and concerns. Provide your team with the resources and tools for success.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

Dr. Orbuch: Learn how to be a good listener. Because feedback is essential, and only helps to achieve that ‘common goal’ I mentioned earlier!

Dr. Stein: Keep your team motivated and engaged by supporting them as best you can, and listen to their needs and concerns. Keep an open line of communication — welcome their feedback, and do team building events together.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Dr. Orbuch: My father, Nicholas Kerin is cardiologist by training, and a loving caring father to our family. On many weekends, I joined my dad as he rounded on his patients in the hospital in Detroit. He first listened extensively to his patients, as they described their ailments, then performed an extensive physical exam. As my dad touched the lives of each and every patient, it was so clear that each and everyone of his patients had the utmost respect for my dad. He authored close to 100 peer reviewed publications, textbooks, and journal articles, as well as spoke across the world on topics in cardiology. He truly loved his profession and all his patients.

Dr. Stein: My step-father, Ira Ingerman, who raised me, educated me, and showed me unconditional love — he is my inspiration. He started out with nothing, except two loving parents, who immigrated from Russia. He worked very hard and became successful through grit and determination, and this value system had a profound impact on me. He has been my mentor and advisor through my entire business career, and has always been positive — giving great advice and direction. He taught me a good work ethic and how to succeed. I am forever grateful and thankful that I have had such a wonderful mentor along the way.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Dr. Obuch: My goal is to decrease the time that women suffer and shorten the time from symptom onset to diagnosis. To me it is completely unacceptable that a woman should suffer for ten to twelve years until she is diagnosed with endometriosis. For most women, by the time they are finally diagnosed, they undergo the wrong surgery and it takes many more years more until she hears about the correct type of surgery: excision surgery. Since many teens develop symptoms of endometriosis around the time that they begin their period, my goal is to educate pediatricians and family doctors as to the early signs of endometriosis. My hope is for teens to be diagnosed within a few months of the onset of symptoms, rather than having to wait over a decade for an answer. It is important for teenagers to know that 70% of teens with painful periods actually have endometriosis. This astonishing fact is not widely known!

Dr. Stein: Throughout the years, myself and the staff at my practice have worked really hard to spread awareness and education on many underdiagnosed and misdiagnosed abdomino-pelvic pain conditions that effects millions of men, women and children. I have also written two books and created lengthy video content regarding self-care for pelvic health, pelvic pain, and endometriosis. Considering my passion is primarily physical therapy and healing my patients, I wrote the books as a labor of love and to spread awareness globally.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

Dr. Obuch:

1. Listen first, think, then respond

2. Integrity and honesty above all

3. Be a good person

4. Lead by example

5. Be humble.

I am so grateful to my mentors, founders in the field of endometriosis excision surgery, Dr. Harry Reich (who performed the first laparoscopic hysterectomy), and Dr C.Y. Liu — Both of whom were mentors and friends during my fellowship in minimally invasive gynecology. Both Dr. Reich and Dr. Liu, were nearing retirement when I was their fellow and they both shared not only their love for endometriosis excision but also their surgical skills they amassed over the years. I watched them listen to their patients tell their endometriosis ‘journeys’, 5, 10, 15 years of pain. Never did either of them interrupt their patients. They were both close to the end of their careers as practicing endometriosis surgeons when I was their fellow, which afforded me the opportunity to learn from truly skilled and seasoned physicians.

Dr. Stein:

1. Have a good mentor that you trust

2. Communicate well and efficiently with your patients/clients and your staff

3. Be open to change and be flexible when appropriate

4. If you are opening a new business or practice, you’re only as good as your team, from what you hire in-house to what you outsource

5. Be firm and consistent, but empathetic. I have made mistakes along the way (we are all human!), and have learned from them. Keep going, keep learning and don’t make the same mistake twice!

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Dr. Orbuch: My movement would be to help identify endometriosis in teens and adolescents to help stop needless suffering. On average women see eight doctors over a ten year period to get diagnosed with endometriosis. A decade of pain and frustration… that HAS to change. My movement would be to educate teens and adolescents, and those doctors caring for them, the following fact: that 70% of teens with painful periods have endometriosis. I would love to start a campaign letting teens know that ‘Painful Periods Are Not Normal’, and help them understand that finding an endometriosis specialist who performs Excision of Endometriosis is essential.

Dr. Stein: My movement would be educating on how physical therapy can dramatically help those who are suffering, and with that, help them to avoid unnecessary medications and surgeries. The medical mismanagement and lack of knowledge need to stop, and the medical maze that patients have to travel needs to be shortened. This is my calling card in life!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Dr. Orbuch: ‘Our only limitations are those we set up in our own minds’. This principle has really guided me. Whenever I have an idea about endometriosis, or life in general, or a goal I want to accomplish — I am an outside the box trailblazer. If I believe it, I can make it happen!

Dr. Stein: Work hard, enjoy life, enjoy your family and loved ones; be supportive and caring and stay positive. This has helped me to be where I am today and to have a beautiful family, successful career and a happy life.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)

Dr. Orbuch: I would love to meet the medical medium, Anthony William, as I believe his knowledge and understanding autoimmune and inflammatory diseases surpasses the knowledge of traditional medicine and all that we learn in medical school.

Dr. Stein: Not only am I a big fan and admirer of Madonna as a child and teenager, but also as an adult with her many philanthropic successes, her fight for equality and her strength as a female entrepreneur. I especially admire her Madonna Foundation which supports rehabilitation for adults and children with disabilities as well as educational scholarships for kids.

Connect with Dr. Orbuch:

Dr. Orbuch can be found at www.LAGynDr.com and www.NYCrobotic.com and followed on Instagram @dririsorbuch

Connect with Dr. Stein:

www.beyondbasicsphysicaltherapy.com

www.healpelvicpain.com (Book and Video website)

Follow us @beyondbasicspt