Dr. Stéfanie Seixas-Mikelus and her husband traveled to Mount Pleasant from New Jersey last fall. The couple got married at Boone Hall in October 2017 and wanted to enjoy a special getaway to one of their favorite places to celebrate their one year anniversary. What they didn't anticipate is that an interview with East Cooper Medical Center (ECMC) would lead to them celebrate more than just their marriage on the trip.
On July 8, East Cooper Urology opened its doors for the first time on Whipple Road. Seixas-Mikelus is the first female urologist to spearhead a urology practice in Mount Pleasant.
"It's an honor and I'm happy that females are assuming that kind of responsibility and taking the reins. Historically, urology has always been primarily a male-dominated specialty," Seixas-Mikelus said.
She explained that 10 years ago there were probably only 500 board-certified female urologists and now there are 1,000 board-certified female urologists nationwide. But, she said there are almost 13,000 male board-certified urologists in the country.
"We've doubled in the last 10 years, but we still have a ways to go," she said.
With an extensive background in medicine, she says she is eager to serve patients locally here. Seixas-Mikelus is a board certified, national fellowship trained urologist specializing in Urologic Oncology and Robotic Surgery using the state-of-the-art da Vinci surgery system.
She is a native of New York and did most of her medical training in the Northeast. She received her undergraduate degree from University of Pennsylvania and attended medical school at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston. After medical school, Seixas-Mikelus completed a urology residency program in Buffalo and then an additional two-year Urologic Oncology and robotic surgery fellowship at Roswell Park Cancer Institute.
She recently served as Medical Director of Robotic Surgery at Hackensack Meridian Jersey Shore University Medical Center, a 650-bed teaching, Level 1 trauma hospital outside of New York City.
"As with any field, I think having taken care of various types of conditions, serving as Medical Director of Robotics, performing these complex cases in a very busy urban setting has given me not only experience but obviously the confidence to take those skills and bring it to the Mount Pleasant area," she said.
Currently, Seixas-Mikelus serves as the physician of East Cooper Urology and the other staff members include a practice office manager, a medical assistant and the front office staff.
"Many times there's a common misconception that urologists only treat males, but we do treat both men and women. It's basically a field of medicine that focuses on the medical and surgical diseases of the urinary tract systems both male and female as well as the male reproductive system," she explained.
Urologists treat benign and malignant diseases. Common diseases treated are enlarged prostate in men, prostate cancer, urinary tract infections in women, urinary incontinence, hematuria (blood in urine), kidney stones and various malignancies of the urinary tract and male reproductive systems.
"I got exposure to robotics in my residency and I found it fascinating because you can do such complex cases through small incisions. And you see tissue clearly, everything is at least 10 times magnified," she said. "Patients are able to have the historically complex cases that were always done open (surgery) now through smaller incisions meaning less scaring, lower risk infection, lower pain levels, less blood loss and much shorter hospital stays and recovery periods."
Seixas-Mikelus explains that the most recent da Vinci Surgery System, XI, can perform robotic surgery in different abdominal quadrants, making surgery faster and more efficient. If someone is getting their kidney, ureter and bladder removed at once as a part of what's called a Robotic Nephrectomy, the new robot system only has to be positioned once instead of the older models that had to be re-positioned throughout surgery to reach different areas of the body.
Seixas-Mikelus said robotic surgery is more precise and that she's able to see tissue extremely well. She said the robot even accounts for the tremor of a surgeon.
"Some patients may think the robot works or does a surgery independently of the surgeon. I always try to clarify to patients that the surgeon sits on a counsel and manipulates the instruments through key-size hole incisions in the patient. The robot responds to the movement of the surgeon. At all times the surgeon is in control," she said.
She said what makes her different than most females in the Urology field is that she can offer both Urologic Oncology and Robotic Surgery. She is hopeful that this allows both men and women patients to consult her about their conditions.
Seixas-Mikelus encourages patients to be their best advocate and educate themselves. She always encourages patients with urological cancers to visit the National Comprehensive Cancer Network's website and browse guidelines because it elaborates through every step of a diagnosis, what options are available and explains complicated medical issues in everyday language.
She also encourages patients with complex cases to bring their family or friends to appointments to take notes and show support. Seixas-Mikelus explained that sometimes they will hear things patients don't hear especially when discussing various cancers or a new diagnosis. She also encourages patients to get a second opinion so they can make a decision they are comfortable with.
"I want to be able to provide a very comprehensive urological care to the community, to offer the latest state-of-the-art surgery with robotics so patients have more options. They could have the traditional open surgery or elect either Laparoscopic or robotic surgery if they feel they want to go that route," she said.
She explained coming from a fast paced, big city that she is eager to have more patients and look at expanding the size of the practice's staff in the future. Seixas-Mikelus said that her specialty allows her to establish long-term relationships with her patients; from the time of diagnosis, through their treatment and for years after.
Seixas-Mikelus is thrilled to be in the heart of Mount Pleasant and said she and her husband felt as though they were returning to their roots when they moved here. Her former babysitter moved to the area nearly 20 years ago and she has come to visit once a year.
You can find Seixas-Mikelus on the golf course with her husband or playing with their two dogs when she isn't in the office caring for patients. Visit eastcooperurology.com/meet-our-provider for more information.