Pioneering Surgeon Dr. Marie F. Paraiso Honors Life Balance

Posted on May 29, 2013

May 2013 -- While Marie Paraiso, M.D. is an internationally recognized pioneer in gynecologic surgery, she says family has always been her top priority. An identical twin and one of five daughters, she describes growing up in a tightknit, loving household. Her mother, a pharmacist, taught her girls from a very young age that there were no closed doors, only opportunities. And her father, an obstetrician, shared his gifts of compassion and dedication to his patients. “He knew that every woman he treated was someone’s mom, sister, wife or daughter, and he valued that,” she remembers.

“We all learned early on that we are an extension of God’s hands, a lesson that is both humbling and empowering,” says Dr. Paraiso. “God gives us the tools, but it’s up to each of us to use them.”

She remembers her earliest thoughts of becoming a physician in second grade. “I wanted to be either a doctor or a nun,” she says. “But I had a crush on a boy at school, so that ruled out being a nun.”

After graduating from Notre Dame, she attended medical school at Indiana University. She completed her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology in Cincinnati before coming to Cleveland Clinic for a Pelvic Surgery fellowship. Performing pelvic surgery gave her the opportunity to combine her passion for women’s health with her surgical skills. "I found minimally invasive surgery to be an exciting field. There are always new and different ways to approach women’s problems,” says Dr. Paraiso. In treating problems like pelvic organ prolapse and urinary and fecal incontinence, Dr. Paraiso strives to give each of her patients the least invasive treatment. “

Women are sometimes reluctant to seek help for these problems, even when they are hindering their quality of life,” she says. “But I can almost always offer my patients either a medical or minimally invasive surgical solution that fits into their lifestyles.”

Dr. Paraiso is a staff physician in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Cleveland Clinic, where she also serves as Head of the Center for Urogynecology and Reconstructive Pelvic Surgery. She also sees patients in the Center for Specialized Women’s health and has a joint appointment in Urology.

Dr. Paraiso is skilled in advanced laparoscopy, robotic surgery, midurethral slings, mini-slings, advanced vaginal reconstructive surgery, pelvic organ prolapse repair kit procedures, and sacral neuromodulation (bladder pacemakers). Most recently, Dr. Paraiso has embraced the burgeoning field of robotic surgery, adapting several of her innovative surgical techniques to robotic-assisted laparoscopic approaches.

“Robotic surgery has enabled us to overcome some of the limitations of conventional laparoscopy,” she says. “It provides a three dimensional view and the robots arms offer increased range of motion. Physicians find suturing to be easier to learn with robotics than with conventional laparoscopy.” For patients, laparoscopic surgeries with or without robotics mean less bleeding, reduced pain and shorter hospital stays.

The newest frontier is single-port laparoscopic gynecologic surgery, in which the entire repair can be completed through just one tiny incision in the belly-button. Patients can go home the same day or the next day and have no visible scar from the procedure. Dr. Paraiso says that she and her Cleveland Clinic colleagues are on the forefront in utilizing this promising technology.

“We all have our niches and we all love to share our expertise with each other,” she says. “I couldn’t ask for more collaborative or supportive colleagues.”

Dr. Paraiso says that besides pioneering several techniques and being an early adopter of others, she devotes a great deal of time to studying the procedures and reporting on them in medical literature. She is widely published and has lectured internationally. Using telemedicine, in which actual operations are transmitted in real time, Dr. Paraiso demonstrates state-ofthe- art techniques to physicians and students throughout the world.

She recently traveled to Rome with a group of Cleveland Clinic surgeons, and counts herself lucky to have had an audience with the Pope. A die-hard Notre Dame alum and a Eucharistic minister in her parish, she particularly enjoyed the opportunity to share her visit to the Vatican with her husband and two children.

“My children are my greatest achievement, and I am fortunate to have a husband who is a great partner in life and my biggest supporter,” says Dr. Paraiso. She cites one of her most important skills as her ability to focus on one thing at a time and put everything else out of her head. She can leave surgery behind at the end of the day. When she’s not at work, she enjoys tennis, piano, golf, cooking, traveling, singing and reading. But her favorite pastimes always include her family.

During a recent telesurgery, a student asked Dr. Paraiso if she had her Ph.D. in addition to her M.D. “I told him that I’m an M.D., MOM, and that’s really the best thing in the world to me,” she says.

Marie Paraiso, M.D. is an internationally recognized pioneer in gynecologic surgery at Cleveland Clinic.