Young Capetonian Urogynaecologist breaking boundaries

Dr Lamees Ras, 35, of Walmer Estate, is breaking boundaries in the field of gynaecology by setting her sights on becoming one of a handful of certified urogynaecologists in the country.

A urogynecologist manages clinical problems associated with dysfunction of the pelvic floor and bladder. Pelvic floor disorders affect the bladder, reproductive organs, and bowels.

She currently works mostly at Groote Schuur Hospital under the mentorship of one of very few women in the field, Dr Kendall Brouard. But she also spends time each week in the private sector at Vincent Pallotti and Christiaan Barnard Memorial hospitals.

“That’s how many women there are who need our help, indicating the many, many more who are still thinking there is nothing that can be done for them, so just existing with their conditions,” Dr Ras said.

Urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse, which Dr Ras’s research has shown, is wrecking too many lives of women older than 50.

Dr Ras, 35, is passionate. She is aware that she is leading the charge in respect of not only securing official recognition for the sub-speciality of urogynaecology in South Africa, but also changing women’s lives for the better.

She is Drs Jeffery and Kruger’s first urogynaecology fellow, who will be officially registered by the HPCSA after it recognised the field just last year. The registry is still to become a reality, but Dr Ras will complete her fellowship in October 2018, and hopes she will see many gynaecologists follow in her footsteps.

“General gynaecologists with a special interest in urogynaecology have been practicing in the field for many years, but anyone who wanted to be formally certified previously had to go overseas to do so,” she explained.

As to why she’s so passionate, Dr Ras added:

“This is women’s silent shame. They don’t talk about it. They don’t think there is anything they can do about it.

“They think they smell constantly of urine, they don’t want to have intercourse with their partners in case they leak on them, they stop going out with friends because they are afraid they may leak in the car, they stop exercising, put on weight and get depressed.

“They socially withdraw, relationships break down and this may often lead to depression.”

So while she concedes the specialty is hard work, with long hours of surgery that impact on her personal life, Dr Ras is adamant she will rise to the challenge.

“This opportunity that has been handed to me is way bigger than just me, and I am acutely aware of that,” she said.

To those wanting to follow in her footsteps, she said: “The road to becoming an obstetrician and gynaecologist is a long and difficult one that requires a lot of sacrifice, discipline and determination. It is, however, also extremely rewarding and heart-warming and one of the few areas in medicine, where you can see the miracle of life on an almost daily basis and hopefully make an impact on women’s lives for the better.”

Story by: Brent Lindeque @BrentLindeque