Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Sisters by choice: A community Woman surgeon leading charity since 1989








A native Georgian, Dr. Rogsbert F. Phillips-Reed is a general surgeon specialized in breast surgery. I had the pleasure to meet her last week and was inspired to write about her great work.When I first mentioned Association of Woman Surgeons (AWS), she smiled mischievously and recalled as being one of the first few AWS resident members.

She graduated from Columbia University School of Physicians and Surgeons in 1977 and in 1982 became the second woman and first African-American woman to successfully complete Emory University's surgical Program. When she started her general surgery practice, majority of her referral was Breast related. She welcomed all patients alike and gave best care possible. Over a period of time she was successful in building a  very broad based general surgery practice. Her caseload ranged from Hernias to Whipple. All that only inspired her to learn more, do better and keep up with new innovations in surgery. While midway in her practice, she trained herself to do complex laparoscopic as well as oncoplastic procedures. Forapproximately 30 years she has practiced medicine in metropolitan Atlanta area, serving a diverse patient population. Today she heads Metro Surgical Associates, a community-based surgical practice with offices in downtown Atlanta and Lithonia.

Georgia ranks 10th in population among the fifty states, but 40th  in physician supply per 100,000 population. In fact, latest figures tell us that 15% of Georgia's population is medically underserved for primary care. Access to more specialized services is even worse. Since majority of  Dr Rogsbert-Phillips's practice was breast related she soon realized the need for programs that would not only increase public awareness of breast cancer but also bridge the gap in care. So, in 1989 she founded Sisters By Choice (SBC). Initially formed as a support group for women diagnosed with breast cancer and their families, SBC has evolved into a multi-faceted organization serving women in Georgia.SBC provides over 800 free mammograms and breast exams to uninsured, unemployed and homeless women each year as well as free educational seminars, workshops, and health fairs to promote breast cancer awareness.

Realizing that there are health care disparities surrounding access to quality breast care in rural Georgia; Dr. Phillips-Reed has started an initiative to address this disparity by developing a Mobile Breast Clinic. This unique mobile breast clinic will facilitate remote screening and diagnostic services. It will provide screenings, diagnostic services, treatment referrals, education and access to clinical trials to medically underserved men and women in rural and urban Georgia. This complete diagnostic care will make this clinic historic. It will be the first of its kind in Georgia, and among the first in the nation.

I was pleasantly surprised to see how much her patients admire her for her care and compassion. One can also see that most of her family and friends either work or volunteer at her practice. Of all the people, her husband Mr Reed and son Kasim Reed Mayor of Atlanta, are one of the biggest supporters of her mission. With pure good intentions, she has not only earned loyalty of her patients but devotion of her family for a cause that is dear to her. She has proved that all it takes is one dedicated woman community surgeon to change the way care is provided to vast section of the community underserved or uninsured.
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Bharti Jasra is a Breast Surgical Oncology Fellow at UTSW 2014-2015. She completed General Surgery residency at Saint Louis University Hospital in June 2014.

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