COOKEVILLE – Dr. Sara Wells certainly remembers the first time she ever set foot in an operating room.
It was her second year of medical school at the University of Kansas, and she had just been assigned her mentor, the very person tasked with advising her through the process of earning her professional degree. The only problem? He worked in urology, a specialty that she had no intentions of pursuing. Until that fateful day.
“I started medical school thinking I might do cardiology, but when I got randomly assigned a urologist as a mentor, I remember being super bummed about it because I didn’t want to do surgery,” Wells says. “And then I went into the OR with him. I had a blast.
“I think a lot of surgeons are that way,” she added. “You either need it or you don’t. Urology is the best surgical subspecialty, too, if you ask me. Patients are nice, there’s a lot of humor with it. And there’s variety. We treat a huge variety of diseases. I was pretty much hooked.”
Hooked also despite being one of the few females in the field at the time. The numbers have grown since her graduation from Kansas in 2009, she said, and as of January 2014, there were 350 women board certified urologists nationwide, according to an abstract published by The American Urological Association.
“It’s really changing,” Wells said. “Women realize they can break into the traditional guys clubs. There’s more females doing orthopedics and ENT (ear, nose and throat), for example, a lot of that kind of stuff.”
It’s all a little ironic because it wasn’t that long ago that medicine might have been a more distant thought for Wells. Born in Miami, Fla., but a Kansas resident during her high school years, she attended Middlebury College in Vermont and majored and degreed in German studies. She even spent a year as a visiting student at Freie Universitat in Berlin, Germany, and still maintains a serious love for art history today. But her interests ultimately shifted to medicine after her class load started to take on some different appearances.
“I kept taking more and more science classes for fun,” she said. “Both my parents are (research) lab scientists, so the interest had been there. I just thought maybe I should pay attention to that, and I was curious how (the sciences) affected actual people.”
Post medical school, Wells completed her internship and residency in urology at the University of Louisville. She was looking for a smaller town feel with “state-of-the-art amenities” when she landed at Cookeville Regional Medical Center (CRMC) in August. She is currently working with Drs. Lee Moore and Quinton Cancel at Upper Cumberland Urology Associates and is seeing all types of patients.
“Dr. Cancel and Dr. Moore are both super charming and great guys. I was pretty excited to find them,” Wells said. “I thought it would be good to practice with people I could trust, who are really fun and are doing a good job.
“Demand (for urology services) has also grown,” she continued. “We’re having a lot more people reach retirement age, which is the time where you start having problems like urinary incontinence and general prostate issues. And then also kidney stones are so prevalent here, too. But that incidence is increasing across the country.”
She said she’s excited to continue surgical work, particularly robotic surgery via the da Vinci system at CRMC, which allows surgeons to perform complex procedures through tiny incisions, often resulting in less scarring, shorter recovery times and better outcomes for patients. She’s been performing such surgeries for about four years.
“We’re using it more and more,” Wells said. “Patients like it better and seem to have less pain afterward. That was a big thing for me.”
Dr. Sara Wells is an urologist at Upper Cumberland Urology Associates, 320 N. Oak Ave. in Cookeville. For more information, call (931) 528-5547.