Dr. Donna Waters dedicated her life to promoting women’s health. Now in the practice almost 23 years, she has made a shift.
“For the first 22 years I did obstetrics and gynecology, and last year I dropped obstetrics to spend more time with my family,” says Waters. Waters still has no shortage of things to do in the office. “I am a laparoscopic surgeon, so I am in the operating room almost every day doing a minimally invasive surgery,” she says.
Waters knew she wanted to be a doctor for most of her life. She was good at science classes starting in middle school and when people asked her to consider nursing, a high school teacher told her she should think about becoming a doctor. “I started volunteering in hospitals to see which realm I would prefer and from that point on, I made it my goal to try and become a physician, and I was the first person in my family to ever go to college,” she says. The rest was history. “I did obstetrics and gynecology because it is a unique specialty and I love delivering babies and solving problems for women to get them to a healthier place so they can go back to enjoying their life rather than being in pain or having heavy bleeding.”
Besides being able to improve the quality of life for women, Waters finds her job rewarding because of the relationships she has formed. “Most of my patients have been with me almost the entire time so we have grown up together. I started taking care of them as teen-agers, delivered their babies and now am helping them as they get into their 40s and into perimenopausal issues,” says Waters.
Women come to see her for a wide range of reasons, she says. “There are the common everyday things like urinary tract infections and the ovaries-getting-old picture, where bleeding becomes dysfunctional and heavy, and we can offer them an array (of treatments) from medical therapy to surgical therapy to stop the heavy bleeding,” Waters says.
“When things go wrong it is not anything the patient could have done anything differently about,” she says. “It is a basic imbalance in the body, either with hormones, fibroids or endometriosis.” By communicating with the gynecologist, these issues can be detected and resolved with ease. “Women need to develop a good rapport, come in for annual checkups and let us know about problems early when they are easy to solve rather than trying to ignore it and let it escalate.”
Waters has seen new developments in her field, particularly with laparoscopic surgery. “Patients used to be in the hospital for days and take six to eight weeks to recover, but now it is done as outpatient and they are back on their feet within a couple of days so we have had remarkable advances in technology,” Waters says. These women are able to get back to their families and lives much quicker. “In the office we also have a wider spectrum of medications to offer women all the way up to menopause,” says Waters. Women have choices and there is not just one way to solve a problem; they are able to choose options that fit their lifestyle.
Waters encourages women to make good decisions. “The only control we have is to be as healthy as we possibly can so you should eat right, exercise as best you can and stay on top of your health,” says Waters. She also asks women to get an annual checkup, including a pap smear, mammogram when appropriate and a physical exam. Depending on age, a bone density scan and blood work may be necessary. A good time for the first visit is around 18 or sooner if you are having bleeding or pain. “Young girls need to be aware and the key is to be proactive and not reactive so if I can get them in and counsel them on birth control, sexually transmitted disease prevention and respect versus catching them when they are already pregnant and have a sexually transmitted disease, I would prefer to prevent it rather than to treat it,” says Waters.
Waters loves every aspect of gynecologic care. “I have always enjoyed taking care of women,” says Waters. She is also proud of her active personal life and wonderful family, including a husband of 30 years and three children. As a member of a Navy family, she has lived all over but counts New Orleans as home because she has lived here the longest. She originally came to the city to go to Tulane for undergraduate school. “People are warm and friendly, the food is great, the music is great, there is always something to do and it is a fun town to live in,” she says.
3434 Prytania St., Suite 320
New Orleans, La., 70115
Obstetrics and gynecology
Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans
Alton Ochsner Medical Foundation, New Orleans
“Treat all patients with the same kindness, respect and empathy that I would want from a caregiver for myself.”