Colorectal surgeons break new ground for women in medicine

BY JL WATSON
Special to Florida Weekly

 Valerie Dyke, M.D. and Janette Gaw, M.D.  ROMAN DAVID GARAY / COURTESY PHOTO
Valerie Dyke, M.D. and Janette Gaw, M.D.
ROMAN DAVID GARAY / COURTESY PHOTO

The job of a
surgeon can be time-consuming, filled with early morning surgeries,
emergency cases and late nights checking on patients, all while making important decisions that can impact patients for a lifetime.

Opening a practice without being part of a team adds even more to the mix, but for colorectal surgeon Valerie Dyke, M.D., there was no other
option.

“I wanted to start my own group, because at that time, colorectal surgeons were establishing themselves as something separate from general
surgeons,” Dr. Dyke says. “I started the Colorectal Institute and I was
so overwhelmingly busy.”

Without anyone to fall back on, Dr. Dyke spent nights on her office couch and days adding patients to her practice. She treated everything
from irritable bowel syndrome to colon cancer, dividing her time between surgery in the hospital and regular office visits with patients. She
rarely went home.

“I needed a partner,” she says. She began calling program directors throughout the country until she landed on a program in Atlanta that
connected her with Janette Gaw, M.D. Dr. Dyke did not know Dr. Gaw except for the recommendations of other physicians, but she decided to
take a chance and offer her a position. Her goal was to get Dr. Gaw to leave her successful program in Atlanta and head south to join a
onephysician practice. The two women had several phone conversations before meeting in person.

“Our personalities meshed well,” Dr. Dyke says. “I knew it was a leap of faith on her part to join a new practice.”

Undeterred by the amount of work ahead, Dr. Gaw took the offer and moved to Fort Myers six months into the Colorectal Institute’s
existence.

“I knew there would be a lot of opportunities in Fort Myers,” Dr. Gaw says. “And Dr. Dyke seemed nice. You spend so much time working
together you want someone with a similar perspective.”

The two women don’t necessarily see themselves as pioneers, even though they work in a field that is dominated by men. It’s rare that a
woman would launch a surgical practice without partners to help shoulder the patient load.

“It was tough,” Dr. Dyke says. “But it was the right choice. I knew it was something positive for our community.”

More than eight years later, Dr. Gaw has no regrets. “We put in a lot of long hours, but our patients are so grateful,” she says. “We really
want to make a difference in their lives.”

Now, with experience and a large patient base, the practice continues to grow. Two more surgeons, Jeffrey Neale, M.D., and Nagesh Ravipati,
M.D., joined the practice in recent years. The four surgeons treat patients at the Colorectal Institute and at all four Lee Memorial Health
System Hospitals — Cape Coral Hospital, Gulf Coast Medical Center, HealthPark Medical Center and Lee Memorial Hospital.

In 2010, Dr. Gaw teamed up with her patient, Vera Owens, a colorectal cancer survivor, to form an annual charity run to benefit colorectal
patients who need financial help. The third annual Scope for Hope 5K Run/Walk is March 23 at Hammond Stadium. For more information, go to www.21stcenturycare.org. ¦

 

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