From the time we were little, very little was discussed publicly about matters of the bowels. Going “number 1 or number 2” was an easy way for children to communicate. However, with maturity, this uninhibited flow of conversation became obstructed by embarrassment for people who experience problems with their most personal and private body parts and functions.
Dr. Lisa A. Coleman, DO, FACS, FASCRS is working to remove the stigma that leaves many people suffering in areas that include the colon, rectum, anus and pelvis. Coleman is a fellowship-trained, board certified colon and rectal surgeon who opened the Center for Colorectal Surgery with the Tidewater Physicians Multispecialty Group, (TPMG) in Newport News.
TPMG’s website states, “specializing in the surgical and nonsurgical treatment of problems of the colon, rectum and anus, colorectal surgeons are experts in the surgical and nonsurgical treatment and play an instrumental role in the effective screening, prevention and treatment of colorectal cancer.”
Says Coleman, “The most important thing that I can provide both men and women is a safe and comfortable space to address these really difficult issues.” She continues, “When it comes to something like anal health, people can’t delay because they’re uncomfortable talking about it, because their embarrassment delays me from providing treatment that could bring effective change to their problem.”
Coleman’s determination to become a surgeon began when she was a high school student in Darien, CT, working with EMS-Post 53. Through this unique program, teens ran the town’s ambulance service and were on call 24-7. Says Coleman, “We carried pagers and brought the ambulances to school so if you were on call, you would leave school to take care of emergencies.”
This program’s area of responsibility included Interstate 95 on the Connecticut border outside of New York City. This required the teens to respond to numerous car accidents often involving multiple injuries. “This is really where it all started for me,” Coleman says.
Coleman earned her medical degree at Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, California. “Once you get into medical school, you have to figure out how to pay for it, so I joined the Army,” she says. She joined in 1998 and started her surgical residency training at Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii.
It was here that she heard the world-renowned colorectal surgeon, Dr. Stanley Goldberg, during his annual visit. “I really didn’t know anything about colorectal surgery,” says Coleman. “He talked about how a colorectal surgeon could be involved in a very large complex abdominal surgery like the removal of a colon or a rectum for cancer or the reconstruction of a rectum, which are large complex surgeries. He also talked about smaller complex surgeries of the anal-rectum area like hemorrhoids, infections in the pelvis, colonoscopies and the wide range of techniques used.”
Coleman was hooked and shadowed a colorectal surgeon, seeing first-hand that the surgeries were complex and fascinating. “I figured that as a woman, this is where I could really make a difference because women need women surgeons. This is certainly not to minimize men’s needs because I certainly have male patients who need significant assistance as well.”
Coleman also recognizes that women have special needs due to the various things that can happen in the pelvis during childbirth. She wants women to know that she provides a safe and comfortable place where they can find out if what they’re feeling is normal and that there’s help available. She invites people to connect with her through either physician or self-referral, depending on what their insurance allows. There are also available resources that cover a wide range of issues, including the benefits of fiber or magnesium supplements or the new recommended age for a colonoscopy which has dropped from age 50 to age 45.
After nearly 16 years in the military serving in various capacities, she separated with an honorable discharge from the Army as a Lt. Colonel. She is a recipient of the Bronze Star, in addition to numerous awards and medals presented during her military career. She separated from the Army when a possible promotion to Colonel would have moved her out of surgery into an administrative role running a hospital. With surgery still as her passion, she left Fort Belvoir, which was her last duty station in January 2017, and came to Hampton Roads. She is the only female colorectal surgeon on the Peninsula.
What drew her to Hampton Roads was its location to the beach and because of the special and unique opportunity to join TPMG for which she is grateful. This Chicago-born Cubs fan has two children and loves to travel. Her favorite place to travel is to Massachusetts to see her parents. One of the things she currently misses is grabbing popcorn and seeing a movie on the big screen.
The great satisfaction she has through connecting with family, friends and her patients keeps her reaching out with humor and compassion. As Coleman continues to turn up the volume on these uncomfortable conversations, lives are being changed and a stigma is being removed from the bottom up.
TO THE POINT:
Center for Colorectal Surgery, Tidewater Physicians Multispecialty Group (TPMG)
Address: 869 Omni Blvd., Ste. 108, NN 23606