physician search
patient portal
career opportunities
our locations
online bill pay

Surgery is a demanding profession, but one that comes with great rewards. While the proportion of women entering medical school is nearly 50 percent, there’s still a significant gap in the number of women who choose to pursue surgery. Even fewer still are the number of women who train for a surgical subspecialty. 

As we continue this series to highlight the women surgeons at University Surgical Associates, Dr. Lisa Smith, pediatric surgeon, shares what women bring to the field of surgery, the challenging and rewarding aspects of her job, and why she chose to establish her practice in this community. 

Surgeon Spotlight
Lisa A. Smith, MD, FACS

Q: Why did you become a surgeon? 

A: "During my first year of medical school, I was told that I didn’t have the personality for surgery and planned to go into medicine instead. This was completely counter to the images I’d had in my mind since childhood of what I would be like as a doctor. Some of what I wanted to do was what surgeons did, so I couldn’t be the kind of doctor I wanted to be if surgery wasn’t an option. I ignored that unsolicited advice and pursued a surgical residency anyway. 

Most surgeons have strong personalities, and that’s ok. I don’t believe the kind of personality matters; it’s the fortitude and strength behind what you’re doing that makes a difference and helps you be good at your job."

Q: Why do you think surgery is one of the last fields in medicine that is predominantly men? 

A: "It takes a tremendous time commitment to be a good surgeon. It’s a difficult specialty, and learning opportunities often come at inconvenient times. Even when you structure your eventual practice around a timely schedule, you are at the whim of surgical disease and those who are training you. The time commitment is huge for surgical training, and the learning curve is steep. It’s absolutely possible to achieve, but this lack of control over your time makes it much more difficult to juggle the responsibilities of family and other activities outside of work. I think these factors can sometimes be a deterrent for women, who despite professional equality between men and women, still take on a huge portion of family and child-related work. Women have so many choices, but there is only so much time."

Q: What do women bring to the field of surgery? 

A: "I believe women bring a different kind of organization and a different way of thinking about problems in the operating room. When we treat our patients based on best practices from all viewpoints we to make things better for our patients."

Q: What do you find most challenging about surgery? 

A: "That we can’t fix everything. As a surgeon, I always give 100 percent to my patients. When things happen that are out of your control, you have to take what’s happened and make the very best of it."

Q: What is the most rewarding aspect of your job? 

A: "I love that surgery provides an opportunity to see a situation come full circle. I can hear about a problem, strategically plan how to address the problem through surgery, perform the operation, oversee recovery, and then witness patients moving on with their lives. It’s very satisfying to see the results of your work make a difference in someone’s life. It’s never just about the operation – being part of this process is at the heart of what makes it special to me."

Q: Why did you choose to establish your practice with University Surgical Associates? 

A: "Dr. Burns’ leadership is what initially attracted me to Chattanooga, and I learned so much from him during my training. After completing my fellowship, I wanted to settle in a place that had strong support for healthcare and active community involvement. The colleagues that I trained with here also shared my philosophy of excellence and a desire to perform our jobs with the highest of ethical and moral standards. 

The best part about USA – both during my training and being part of this practice – is that I’m an equal among my peers. I’m respected for my opinion and skill, and I’m treated like a lady. That can sometimes be a difficult combination to find, but it’s something that is very important to me. I was told early in my career that I didn’t need to be ‘one of the boys’ to earn their respect. This advice has served me well, and I’ve passed it along to other women who are pursuing this challenging, yet highly rewarding path." 

Dr. Lisa Smith earned her medical degree from the Hahnemann U. School of Medicine in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She completed an internship and general surgery residency at UT College of Medicine in Chattanooga, Tennessee, before completing a pediatric surgery fellowship at Miami Children’s Hospital in Miami, Florida. 

Dr. Smith is an assistant professor, division of pediatric surgery, at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine. She is board certified through the American Board of Surgery and a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons. As a pediatric surgeon, Dr. Smith specializes in chest wall reconstruction and urologic reconstructive surgery. 

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Smith, call (423) 267-0466. 

Posted by University Surgical  | Category: surgery

A breast abnormality on an exam or mammogram raises many emotions and concerns. The next step is usually to undergo a biopsy procedure. Prior to 1995, most women in Chattanooga in need of breast biopsy were sent to the operating room. University Surgical Associates (USA) was the first to bring innovative technology that allowed breast biopsy to be done in an outpatient setting using local anesthesia. Today, USA Breast Services is excited to once again be at the forefront of new, even more advanced technology with the Hologic Affirm 3D breast biopsy system. The new system is located in the USA office on Gunbarrel Road and allows for better imaging, faster targeting and fewer x-rays, resulting in shorter procedure time and reduced radiation exposure.  

“In simple terms, a biopsy is a procedure where a small amount of tissue is taken from the body to be examined more closely. If your mammogram shows an area that needs further evaluation, one of the biopsy techniques available through USA Breast Services is stereotactic breast biopsy,” says Laura Witherspoon, M.D., breast surgeon with USA and medical director, Erlanger Center for Breast Health. “We use computer aided technology to guide a needle to the exact point of the abnormality that was picked up by the mammogram. Images are taken from many different angles to ensure the sample of tissue is removed from the correct location.” 

Precise and Comfortable Care

Patients having the biopsy lie prone on the table. The ergonomically engineered cushions provide custom, targeted pressure-point support to improve comfort. “Our patients who have had biopsies on both tables rave about how much more comfortable the new table is,” says USA mammography technologist Jennifer Smith. 

The Hologic breast biopsy system uses 3D imaging to scan the breast in just a few seconds, producing a 360-degree view to pinpoint the exact location for the tissue sample. The surgeon scrolls through the images, marks the target area on the screen, and is able to precisely position the biopsy device. A small incision is made, and the needle is advanced to the exact point of concern. A few samples are taken to ensure there’s enough for diagnosis, and a tiny marker is placed at the biopsy site. USA surgeons can biopsy areas that previously would have required surgery and complete them more quickly and more comfortably than ever before. This form of biopsy is a less invasive alternative to surgical biopsy, requires little recovery time, and scarring is minimal to none. 

“This advanced technology allows surgeons to do more than ever before with stereotactic breast biopsy, and it means we can provide an enhanced level of care for women with suspicious lesions. In years past, lesions in hard to access areas meant patients had to choose between waiting three to six months to see if the lesion changed and going to surgery for a definitive answer,” says W. Todd Cockerham, MD, USA breast surgeon. “The Hologic system helps us accurately identify and biopsy suspected lesions, determine whether an abnormality in the breast is cancer or benign, and offer patients greater peace of mind throughout the process.” 

What to Expect 

After a stereotactic breast biopsy, samples taken will be sent to a pathologist for complete analysis. We understand that this can be a difficult time of waiting. That’s why results of the biopsy are available within 24-48 hours from the time it’s performed. When necessary, the surgeons at USA Breast Services perform breast cancer surgery and coordinate breast cancer care and therapy with other specialists. They also offer unique services that include facilitating referrals for specific therapies, support groups, risk assessment and counseling, breast health education, enrollment in clinical trials and much more. 

At University Surgical Associates, we are committed to providing the best possible patient care. For more information about our comprehensive breast services or to schedule an appointment for risk assessment, breast biopsy or surgical consultation, please call (423) 267-0466. 

Posted by University Surgical  | Category: Breast Cancer

Hixson Demo Day

December 17th, 2018

Out with the old. In with the new. Construction is underway in the new USA Hixson Office. 

USA's Christy Westmoreland scouts out the spot for the first sledgehammer hit for Dr. Ben Kellogg

Dr. Robert Jean and nurse Wendy Featherston  

The team discussing features of the new office

Pictured L to R: 
Wendy Featherston, RN (nurse for Dr. Jean),  Christy Westmoreland, RN (Satellite Operations Mgr),  General surgeons Dr. Jean & Dr. Kellogg,
Marsha Bock, RVT (USA COO), Craig Sarine (USA CEO)

“As the new year approaches, USA is focused on expanding our presence in the region, including a newly designed space that will accommodate more physicians and enhance our ability to provide exceptional surgical care to individuals who live and work in the Hixson and Soddy Daisy areas,” says Craig Sarine, University Surgical Associates CEO.


To kick off the construction,USA employees held a ‘demo day’ where Dr. Robert Jean and Dr. Benjamin Kellogg along with their staff donned hard hats and sledgehammers to begin demo on a wall that will be torn down in the office.


“After many months of working in a temporary office, we are looking forward to finally getting into our permanent home in the Hixson area. This was an important step in that process,”says Sarine. “Since we didn’t have any ground to break, we decided to break a wall. It was actually kind of fun to see the old go down, clearing the way for our new space.”


The USA Hixson office is locatedin the Physician’s Office Building on the campus of CHI Memorial Hospital –Hixson at 2051 Hamill Road, Hixson, Tennessee, Suite 108. The larger officespace, just down the hall in Suite 101, will open in early 2019, offering alarger lobby area and more exam rooms. 


With the expanded office space, Dr. Robert Jean, general surgeon with USA, will have full time office hours at Hixson. Dr. Erica Clark (vascular surgeon), Dr. Benjamin E. Kellogg(general surgeon), Dr. Eric C. Nelson (colorectal surgeon), and Dr. L. Richard Sprouse II (vascular surgeon) will also continue to see patients at this location. 


“I’m very excited about establishing ourselves in Hixson so we can continue to provide the kind of high-quality care that USA is known for across the entire Chattanooga and Hamilton County region,” says Dr. Jean. “We’re thrilled about the opportunity to meet the growing need in the area and partner with physicians in the region to provide timely, effective and convenient surgical care.”

Posted by University Surgical | Topic: News  | Category: news