I had the pleasure of interviewing Iris Kerin Orbuch, MD who is the Director of the Advanced Gynecologic Laparoscopy Center in Los Angeles and New York City. She is the author of the soon to be released book, “Beating Endo: how to reclaim your life with endometriosis” She is regarded as one of only a handful of Endometriosis specialists across the world.
Thank you so much for joining us, Dr. Iris! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
As a child I loved playing video games as I spent my summer vacations trying to rescue the princess on super Mario brothers on the Nintendo platform. An avid athlete, in addition to a video game player, I further developed my hand I coordination, which is essential for a surgeon. The first time I stepped foot in the operating room during medical school, I knew it was where I belonged.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
The most amazing feeling is for 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 approach. When a woman returns for her post op appointment I get so choked up to hear a woman smiling on the outside and smiling on the inside and thank me for giving her her life back.
March is Endometriosis Month, can you tell us more about this disease? What are the symptoms?
Endometriosis is common affecting 10% of women, 176 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…
What can women do if they are diagnosed with endometriosis? Is there a cure for it?
The most important advice I can give a woman whose doctor suspects she has endometriosis, is to find an endometriosis specialist who performs excision of endometriosis. There are less than 100 endometriosis excision specialists in the country. 99% of gynecologists perform the wrong kind of surgery known as ablation surgery.
With medicine constantly evolving are there any new and exciting treatments out there that will help the millions of women who are currently suffering from this disease?
I wish there was a medicine available to treat and cure endometriosis however this is not the case. Excision of endometriosis, is the best treatment. All medicines, birth control pills and others only control symptoms while endometriosis itself continues to progress. Stated simply, birth control pills do NOT cure endometriosis. They only help with symptoms, if you can tolerate their side effects. My hope is that teens will be diagnosed within a few months of symptoms rather than struggling for 10 to 12 years for an answer.
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?
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
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
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 10 to 12 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 docs 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 10 to 12 years 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. My hopes and goals and dreams are to shorten the time from symptom onset to diagnosis of endometriosis so a woman can live her life to the full list despite having endometriosis rather than having endometriosis define her life.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
Honestly I love being a doctor, and I love helping women and I love performing endometriosis surgery… There’s not much that someone could’ve told me which would have changed my mind regarding my career choice.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant to your life?
‘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!
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 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 :-)
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.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?
My labor of love, which I have been working on for the last three years, is my book which is coming out this June entitled “Beating Endo; how to reclaim your life from endometriosis”. I have a lot of other exciting projects about advancing the multidisciplinary east meets west approach to treating pelvic pain and endometriosis as well is advancing education that teens and adolescents do get endometriosis.
How can our readers follow you on social media?