On Call with Dr. Kathleen Sullivan
A local obstetrics and gynecology doctor champions women’s health.
“I’m a surgeon by nature, but what I like about being a gynecologic surgeon is the continuity of care with my patients,” says Dr. Kathleen Sullivan. “Many specialists meet their patients only in the operating room, but I wanted to have more of an impact on the patient side.”
Indeed, Dr. Sullivan does a lot of surgery, including robot-assisted procedures, but she also considers herself a generalist, offering gynecological services for girls and women from menarche to menopause.
“A lot of times, I have adolescents in my practice,” she says. “We talk about safe sex, and I make sure they’ve gotten an HPV vaccine. But I see older women as well — patients well into their 90s. I love that I get to care for patients at different stages in their life cycle.”
Often, patients come to Dr. Sullivan for one particular reason. Say a teenager is experiencing bad periods. Perhaps a woman in her 30s has just become pregnant. Whatever the reason, Dr. Sullivan’s patients tend to stay on for their regular gynecological check-ups.
“The most important thing is [that] women need to come in for their annual screenings,” Dr. Sullivan says. “In the new recommendations for Pap smears, women who are 30 or over only need one every three years as long as they are negative for HPV. But Pap smears are only for cervical cancer. Many women don’t understand that they still need annual breast and pelvic exams.”
Dr. Sullivan lives in the Warehouse District, but practices in Metairie on the campus of East Jefferson General Hospital. Many of her patients live in New Orleans and follow her out to the suburbs to see her. She noticed a shift after Hurricane Katrina, when Orleans Parish residents needed to seek medical services a little farther from home. They stuck with her, and now her practice is growing, adding patients from all around the metropolitan area.
Dr. Sullivan shares her office with five other doctors (all women) and a nurse practitioner, and the partners help each other out with patient loads. Still, she personally tries to maintain a lot of flexibility in her schedule to be available for her patients as much as she can.
Of course, the littlest patients require the most flexibility. “I often get called out of bed in the middle of the night,” Dr. Sullivan says. “Babies get to choose when they’re born.”