OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. – One female doctor is leading the way in women’s health care at a hospital in Kissimmee.
From curing cancer to teaching medical students, her love for her career shows in her patient care. Dr. Sara Meinz is the first and only female GYN oncologist at Osceola Regional Medical Center. She is also the first female robotic surgeon at the hospital.
Meinz is a Wisconsin native who completed her undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin, where she studied genetics and bacteriology. Growing up in Green Bay, she was used to cold weather and snow but said she prefers the water and sunshine, which is why she moved to Miami to do her research. From there, she went to medical school in Des Moines, Iowa, and later completed her OB/GYN residency in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan. She moved to the Orlando area in 2006 and finished her GYN Oncology fellowship at Florida Hospital. Meinz has now been working in the Kissimmee area since 2011 and is a gynecologic oncologist and osteopathic physician who works mostly out of Osceola Regional Medical Center. Although she lives in Florida now, she will always be a lifelong fan of the Green Bay Packers and visits her family in Wisconsin when her schedule allows it.
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Meinz originally wanted to be a veterinarian and had several jobs in the animal field to get experience. But as time went on, she realized she liked helping humans more. Her mother also influenced her decision to switch paths and she wanted to follow in her footsteps.
“My mom is a nurse and that’s the only other medical person in the whole family and so I think just listening to her experience somewhat swayed me from veterinary school and also, I think that’s how I got into women’s health and oncology. I really liked surgery, so that’s when I decided to pursue a career in oncology and OBGYN oncology,” Meinz said.
And now, she’s the first female and only GYN oncologist, as well as the first female robotic surgeon, at Osceola Regional.
“When I started in 2011, there was no GYN oncologist here, ever. I’ve been here since and I’m the only one,” she said.
GYN oncology is more of a male-dominated field but her passion for her career and dedication allowed her to succeed against all odds.
“I think that it is potentially more difficult for females to get into GYN Oncology. I was the first female fellow at my program. The two before me were both male. I don’t know how it went for them, but I think we have to approach things in a different way. I had to delay having a family because of fellowship, whether that be good or bad. I think that it definitely changes things. I don’t necessarily think that it’s more difficult, but it’s definitely a different road. And you have to be more persistent and strong-willed in order to accomplish your goals as a woman,” Meinz said.
Meinz said it’s important to have females play a strong role in the medical field, especially when it comes to women’s health.
“It’s almost like the scales have tipped to have more female GYN oncologists, which is great because I think for women’s health, we offer something in addition -- not that our care is better than a male’s care, but I think we definitely offer a different perspective on GYN oncology female care. So I think in the medical field, it’s very important that females have a strong role,” Meinz said. “It gives a different experience in terms of how we treat our patients, how we deal with adversity. There’s just a lot that goes into it with multitasking and managing our home, our practice and patients and kids. And I just think it’s different for a female and I think it’s different in a great way.”
Meinz also mentioned that spreading awareness on the cancers that affect women is very important in improving the overall health of females.
“Women’s cancer in the United States does not nearly have the impact that it does worldwide. If we think just about cervix cancer alone, in the U.S. it’s about 12,000 cases a year. That’s really hardly anything, but worldwide, it’s over 100,000 cases a year of cervix cancer. And most of those people die of their cervix cancer and when we think about it, talking about vaccines, it’s preventable with a vaccine in most cases. If we can cure something with a vaccine that kills over 400,000 women a year, that’s amazing. So I think that in terms of women playing a part in that is huge. And I think women are very good advocates for other women. And worldwide, that’s an important factor,” said Meinz.
Meinz said she truly loves her job and really enjoys teaching other medical students and watching them succeed.
“I enjoy my job quite a bit, I really love surgery. And then we also have a residency training program here. So I really, really enjoy teaching the residents, helping them to hone their surgical skills and watching them go from their first day (of) internship to graduating. And watching them in practice if they stay in the community and having them send me referrals. I’ve done co-surgeries with previous residents before on the robot, so it’s been a good experience,” she said.
If it were up to her, she would use the robot every day. Robotic surgeries for minimally invasive procedures are better in terms of the recovery process of the patient, she said.
“We have significantly less blood loss with the procedures, shorter hospital stay, less pain, I would say probably half of my patients go home the same day as the surgery. The rest tend to go home the day following surgery. If it’s a cancer case, usually the day after, so patients go home a lot quicker and recover faster and get back to their life and work and everything faster, and potentially with their treatment to the cancer faster as well,” Meinz said.
Meinz said that her career is very gratifying, and she is grateful for the relationships she gets to make with every patient and their families.
“It’s obviously very rewarding, my field, in terms of being able to cure some people of cancer and obviously we’re not successful at that all of the time but just the connections that I get to make with the patients and their families. Even when they’re not curable, those are some of my most memorable patient experiences,” she said.
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Meinz has always looked up to two important women in her life: her mother and her sister, who have set outstanding examples for her to follow.
“My mom was definitely a role model that we talked about, being a nurse and really the only medical professional in my family. She stayed home and took care of us, my older sister and I, and when I went to kindergarten, she went to nursing school, which I think says a lot about someone that they can go back to school at an older age, accomplish their goals and have a great career. So I definitely look up to her path, she was definitely my biggest role model. My other role model is my sister. She is an engineer, probably the smartest person I know. She is very organized and I did a lot of things to model after her. She was a great student always and an exceptional mother, and I think just looking up to those two women has been my goal,” Meinz said.
Meinz stressed that it’s important for all women to follow up with their doctors to make sure they are up to date on their routine health screenings. She understands that it’s been difficult for some to do so during a pandemic but assures patients that they are taking all of the precautions necessary to keep people safe.
“A lot of people are missing their routine health screenings, I know lots of people are missing their pap smears and their breast exams and their mammograms and the same reason, they just don’t want to go out. And we understand that as physicians, but we also want them to get the care that they need. It’s difficult for us to kind of manage all of that with so many people missing health screenings. I think it’s going to have a pretty detrimental effect with all of the privilege we have in this country, all of the resources available and now, suddenly, no one is using them and that’s difficult,” Meinz said.