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Dr Araba Sam: Robotic Surgery Pioneer

There comes a time when you find yourself calling on something you learned on television, to help you with a real life situation. That was what happened, when I researched Dr. Araba for the first time; it is thanks to BBC One’s medical drama series like Holby City and Casualty, that I actually know what “laparoscopic surgery” means. But not even TV shows can prepare you for a meeting with an absolute force of nature, for good …

Name: Dr. Lanalee Araba Sam
Best Known For: Performing the first total robotic assisted laparoscopic hysterectomy in Palm Beach County; being the Director of Gynecologic Robotic Surgery at West Boca Medical Center; and launching the DocStar initiative and movement of #ThoseWhoCanMUST to educate, motivate and inspire.
Website: www.drsam.md and www.eliteobgyn.com
Describe yourself in three words: Dynamic. Passionate. Powerful
Previous occupation: Oooh, there have been a number of those … lifetime student, newspaper delivery-girl, babysitter, tutor, waitress, airplane groomer, and research assistant
12-month goal: To fully actualise my DocStar App, which is a free resource aimed at other “DocStars” [women who are clinical experts in their respective fields, who still find time and energy to give back to their community], and the “SHEROEs” of the worlds [women whom I admire for making a difference with their dedication to educating, motivating and inspiring those they come in contact with]. I aspire to utilise the DocStar App technology to facilitate introductions and showcasing of DocStars, SHEROEs, and the global organisations they champion, as well as providing free educational seminars on women’s health topics to those who will benefit from my “DocStar Speaks” weekly clinical series.
Describe your outlook & what makes your work/brand, unique: It’s my mentality of #ThoseWhoCanMUST! It originally began in comedic reference to the fact that I chose to purchase a TESLA car last Fall and fell in love with the green technology. Then, it occurred to me that ANYONE who CAN afford a TESLA should and MUST convert to green, environment-friendly, electronic vehicles. It seemed like a complete no-brainer to me, that my physician colleagues with the financial resources and the tendency to gravitate towards high-end luxury vehicles like BMW, Mercedes, and Jaguar, can and MUST consider Tesla. So, it’s evolved from my desire to lead a physician movement to demonstrate commitment and responsibility to the environment, with one action – into my mantra for life. I kept expanding the phrase and applying it in every situation. I truly believe that #ThoseWhoCanMUST educate, motivate and inspire … even if they are not rock stars, athletes, and overnight YouTube celebrities!
Your greatest career highlights to date: Receiving a special International Recognition Award at the 2015 Women4Africa Awards in London, in appreciation for my efforts as part of The Freedom Climb of Mt Kilimanjaro which I completed in March 2015. I was one of 20 people from five countries, who climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and collectively raised over one million dollars to raise awareness of human trafficking. An estimated 30 million people today are living as modern day slaves, and this climb was one of the things I could do to combat that.
Is international appeal important to you? Absolutely! I believe in global responsibility, because for as long as we are on this earth together, we are one human family. So, I do not limit myself to any one country, race or gender. I was born in Accra (Ghana) to a Black African Father and White Scottish-Canadian Mother, raised in Canada, did my medical school and OBGYN residency in the USA, lived for a time in France, and have travelled all over the world. I am an avowed international entity and inhabitant of the planet, Earth!

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Most important piece of equipment you use in your career: The Davinci robot from Intuitive Surgery is the piece of advanced technology I am most appreciative for and known for. Come August 2016, I’d have been performing robotic assisted laparoscopic surgery, for exactly 10 years. As an advocate of minimally invasive gynecologic surgery, I carried out the first robotic assisted single incision laparoscopic hysterectomies at both Florida Medical Center and Broward Health Medical Centers in Fort Lauderdale in Fall 2014. I’ve also taught and lectured on robotic surgery all over the country. These are “scarless” surgeries, where the entire procedure is performed through the bellybutton … so there are no visible scars, and the patient is often able to go home on the same day.
A typical day for you is: That depends. My days usually start at 5am and are generally non-stop until I fall into my bed at 10pm, hoping that I don’t get woken with an emergency ectopic pregnancy or baby on the way. On Wednesdays and Fridays, I have surgery so I’m at the hospital for 7:30am. If it’s a Monday, Tuesday or Thursday, I wake up between 5am and 5:30am, go to the weight room in my building for 20 minutes of light lifting, swim in my pool for 20 minutes, take five minutes in the steam room for prayer, have a shower, then wake up my 12 year-old son. 15 more minutes of meditation in my isolation chamber at Neuro Spa and dress up to be at the office by 8am. I see about 15 – 30 patients, who will usually be from about six to 98 years old. With my pregnant patients, I have a model called Concierge Pregnancy, which means I accept and deliver a maximum of FOUR pregnant patients in any given month. Those four patients are guaranteed my close attention with access to me via text and direct phone, home visits, and me in the hospital functioning as their doctor, midwife or douala during their entire labour. My other patients tend to be consultations with those interested in robotic surgical procedures; some of them drive in from out of state! My days are busy with patients, emails, telephone calls, meetings, managing a million details. In the evenings, I often have dinners or engagements for the Boards I serve on for several National and Global Charities. I have also just signed up for a women’s soccer league on Tuesday nights that I am really excited and happy to get back to. Life is FULL!!! (laughing)

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What legacy would you like to leave? The DocStar initiative and my #thosewhocanMUST movement

Career Challenges
What is the hardest professional decision you’ve ever had to make Deciding to leave a guaranteed salaried position with a large group practice whose morals I questioned, to start my own solo practice in hopes of providing the “exceptional care for women, by women” that I believed in and wanted to see available to women.
Your biggest career mistake: Whew … there have been so many of them, especially in the last couple of years. But the one that is at the front of my mind, hiring my ex-husband to be my office manager when I started my solo practice. It is such a bad idea to mix your business with your personal life.
Most common avoidable mistake you see in younger people in your career: Restricting themselves to medicine … not exploring outside of our field to join non-medical associations, or fraternise with business and community leaders who are completely OUTSIDE of the medical field. DocStars need SHEROEs and SHEROEs need DocStars … we need to mix it up!
Singlepieceofadviceyougiveyourmentees: Readers are leaders and leaders are readers; so, READ paperbacks, eBooks and audio books!

Personal
You live in: Fort Lauderdale
Favourite food: Anything cooked and presented nicely to me by someone else
Biggest spiritual/life lesson you’ve learned: Do no harm – whether to yourself, or to others
What do you do for leisure? Read, swim, run, bike, play soccer or tennis, bake, cook, snuggle in my bed, travel, adore my son, write, and daydream
One app or piece of technology you cannot dowithout: My smart phone and my iPad
Your most over-used phrase(s): “Amazing!”; “I love my life!”; “Those who can, MUST”; and “I am your First DocStar but thankfully NOT the only DocStar”

Dr Araba can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Dr Araba is scheduled to speak at the 2016 Suits, Stilettos and Lipstick Conference taking place in Fort Lauderdale on 9 & 10 September 2016. You can also catch her at the 2016 Global Women’s Leadership Summit where she will be moderating and speaking, on 25 September. The #DocStar App is available for download at the Google Play Store.

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