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EndoFound’s Effort to Raise Endometriosis Awareness

Tamer Seckin, MD and Padma Lakshmi
Dr. Fazleabas, Padma Lakshmi and Tamer Seckin, MD

EndoFound Co-Founders Dr. Tamer Seckin and Padma Lakshmi joined Dr. Asgi Fazleabas and noted members of the Grand Rapids scientific community for a series of exciting events on April 13 and 14, 2011 to raise endometriosis awareness. 

Padma Lakshmi’s presentation

Presented by Michigan State University‘s (MSU) Department of OB/GYN & Reproductive Biology and Inforum Professional Women’s Alliance, these critical education and awareness efforts kicked off April 13 with a premier dinner. The evening featured a presentation by Ms. Lakshmi entitled “Live Well…Give Back“. Lakshmi detailed her evolution from an international supermodel into the multi-faceted businesswoman she is today.

Inforum one of the largest and most prestigious business forums in the nation organized a festive VIP reception and dinner at the Amway Grand Plaza. More than 250 leaders from the medical, professional, and scientific communities along with members of the public attended.

Known internationally as an actress, award-winning author, designer of her namesake jewelry line, style icon, food expert, successful businesswoman, and host of Bravo’s Emmy Award-winning series “Top Chef,” Ms. Lakshmi shared how she turned her passions into her career. She also discussed how she finds time to continue giving back through her passionate work with the Foundation.

Her engaging keynote speech was full of humor, personal anecdotes, and encouraging advice on forging alliances and making connections. 

“As a businesswoman, my work with EFA provides a way to give back. I feel I have a responsibility to pay my success forward by also informing women through my own experience,” Ms. Lakshmi said.

The women’s health symposium

Inforum’s “Live Well…Give Back” gala preceded the MSU College of Human Medicine’s women’s health symposium, “A Focus on Endometriosis“, hosted by Dr. Fazleabas, Professor and Associate Chair of the Department of OB/GYN & Reproductive Biology and an internationally recognized expert on endometriosis and infertility.

MSU is home to a $6.8 million NIH-funded Specialized Cooperative Centers Program for Reproductive & Infertility Research. It largely focuses on translational studies regarding the etiology and pathophysiology of endometriosis along with adenomyosis and endometrial and ovarian cancers. Under the leadership of Dr. Fazleabas, the Center is leading the way in cutting-edge research in developing animal models and in vitro systems to understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms of the pathology of endometriosis and develop non-invasive diagnostic tests that are so desperately needed for the early diagnosis of the disease.

The symposium launched with a warm welcome and opening remarks from Dr. Marsha Rappley, distinguished Dean of MSU College of Medicine and Dr. Richard Leach, eminent Chairperson of the Department of OB/GYN & Reproductive Biology, who spoke of the critical need to elevate women’s health as a research priority. 

Serving as event Moderator, Dr. Fazleabas introduced Ms. Lakshmi. She opened her life with poignant candor to a full house comprised of medical professionals, students and the public, recounting highly personal details about her decades-long, extremely painful odyssey with endometriosis. 

Ms. Lakshmi said she feels it is her mission to raise endometriosis awareness. She detailed her experiences from the first of her many surgeries – in which she never heard the word “endometriosis” – to finally receiving successful treatment and ultimately becoming a miracle mom. Her heartfelt honesty provided insight into living with a painful, misunderstood disease. It also empowered several patients in the audience to lend their own voices to the discussion. 

A common theme: anger

Sharing personal experiences, a common theme emerged from those in the audience: anger. Anger at not receiving a diagnosis earlier. Anger at not receiving effective treatment options. And anger at being largely ignored by the medical community.  One woman even related her significant frustration at having to suffer through ineffective therapies and the extensive collateral toll it took on her personal and professional life. 

The event was an unprecedented opportunity for patients and professionals alike to engage in meaningful dialogue concerning the disease and work in partnership on an agenda to increase endometriosis awareness.

Dr. Tamer’s Seckin’s keynote speech

Following his Co-Founder, featured keynote speaker Dr. Tamer Seckin took the podium to lecture on “Endometriosis Surgery for Multiple Organ Involvement“.  Educating the audience through a series of medical animations and surgical slides, Dr. Seckin discussed the science of endometriosis from origin and pathogenesis to advanced surgical treatment through expert laparoendoscopic excision. 

Ranked among America’s top surgeons and gynecologists, Dr. Seckin is an internationally renowned specialist in advanced excision surgery for the treatment of endometriosis and associated pelvic pain pathologies. An active educator and philanthropist, he lectures around the world on endometriosis and minimally invasive gynecologic endoscopy techniques. 

The day’s close

The day closed with presentations from Drs. Grace Janik and Bruce Lessey. They presented “Surgical Management for Severe Endometriosis” and “New Concepts for the Diagnosis of Pain & Infertility in Minimal & Mild Endometriosis“, respectively. Both shared their laudable knowledge of the disease as it relates to pain, infertility, and effective treatment.

The ensuing dialogue between the expert presenters and the audience increased awareness about the need for early diagnosis and gold standard treatment. It also lent several personal experiences to what some may think is an insignificant illness. On the contrary, endometriosis affects an estimated 176 million women and girls globally. It also has a staggering price tag to society estimated at $22-110 billion annually. 

“It’s unfortunate that this disease is so prevalent, and we know very little about it. Women typically endure the condition 8 to 11 years before a diagnosis because they’re told it’s part of growing up,” Dr. Fazleabas told media at a press conference for the event.

The gala and symposium were part of the foundation’s ongoing efforts to lead research and extensive collaborative efforts with scientists, women’s health professionals, patients, and the public to further raise endometriosis awareness.

Ms. Lakshmi said the event was “a way for us to get the word out to a large group of women who are movers and shakers”. 

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