Shauna Lorenzo-Rivero, MD, FACS, FASCRS
Dr. Shauna Lorenzo-Rivero earned her medical degree from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri. She then completed a general surgery residency at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City, Iowa before completing a colorectal surgery fellowship from the Ferguson Clinic in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Dr. Lorenzo joined USA in 2008.
Dr. Shauna Lorenzo-Rivero has a unique focus – when you meet her, you immediately know her priorities and see her passion. Read on as Dr. Lorenzo shares the unlikely way she was introduced to surgery, her drive to increase colorectal cancer awareness, and what she finds most rewarding about her career.
Dr. Lorenzo served as president of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society in 2017, where she focused on building upon the fundamental services of the Medical Society while also making the Society more visible to the public and patients, not just the medical community.
Q: WHY DID YOU BECOME A SURGEON?
A: “In 3rd grade, my neighbor’s father came to our class to talk about his career. He was an ophthalmologist and let us dissect cows’ eyes during his presentation. I came home that night and told my parents that I wanted to be a surgeon – and I never changed my mind.
Until medical school, I didn’t realize how many different types of surgeons there were. I did three rotations – trauma, plastic surgery and colorectal – and that helped me decide what was right for me. Colorectal surgery made use of some of the most advanced instruments, and that really intrigued me. The colorectal surgeons I followed during my residency were some of the happiest, and that also really stuck with me.
My one concern was that I couldn’t stand the smells associated with this specialty, and it nearly made me change my mind. A wise professor told me not to worry and that my sense of smell would be gone within a year, and he was right. It’s not something I even think about anymore."
Dr. Lorenzo and her husband, Jeremy O'Brien, at the Greater Chattanooga
Colon Cancer Foundation's annual Rump Run.
Q: How did you develop a specific passion for colorectal cancer awareness?
A: "For me, being a surgeon isn’t a job that I do. It’s something that I am 24 hours a day – I’m always a physician and thinking about my patients and helping them maintain a healthy lifestyle. Ten years ago when I came to Chattanooga, there were awareness events for breast cancer and melanoma and others, but not colorectal cancer.
It turns out that Tennessee has one of the highest rates of colon cancer in the U.S. In Chattanooga, black women have twice the rate of colon cancer as white women. Black men have four times the rate of colon cancer than white men. I felt compelled to do something about it. I started the Greater Chattanooga Colon Cancer Foundation to educate our community about the importance colon cancer screening and to conquer the disease through awareness, access and advocacy. We began with an annual event called the Rump Run, which was initially about raising awareness, but has grown into helping people who can’t afford it find access to colonoscopy screenings."
Q: What is a misconception people have about surgeons?
A: “There have been a lot of changes in the last 10 years about the way people view surgeons and medical professionals. When I was in medical school, surgeons were seen as gods and not to be questioned. With the introduction of television shows like Grey's Anatomy and others, it’s brought down the wall and air of mystery around our work. In some ways it’s good to be able to see your surgeon as a human and poke a bit of fun at things. But I also believe it has eroded the physician-patient relationship a bit. Although you should talk openly with your surgeon and ask every question you have, you ultimately must leave some of those major decisions to their professional discretion. That’s why it’s critical to find a physician you trust completely.
Q: WHAT DO YOU FIND MOST REWARDING ABOUT YOUR JOB?
A: “I love when my patients come back after surgery and have found relief for whatever problem we were addressing. It’s wonderful to see patients after the healing period is over get back to their normal lives and live like nothing ever happened. Seeing them out in the community is very rewarding.Another area that brings me joy is the Lady Surgeons Club founded my me and my colleague Dr. Laura Witherspoon. We noticed that women in our residency program were leaving in their second or third year, and we found that concerning. We began meeting once a month over dinner, providing an opportunity for younger women surgeons to ask questions, seek advice and talk openly about the unique issues they faced in their work and life. Although we have no formal agenda, we always have plenty to discuss. I’m very proud that we haven’t lost a single female resident since the group was founded."
Dr. Lorenzo is board certified through the American Board of Surgery and American Board of Colorectal Surgery. She specializes in general and colon and rectal surgery. Dr. Lorenzo is an associate professor of surgery, Department of Surgery, for the University of Tennessee College of Medicine, Chattanooga, a fellow of the American College of Surgeons (FACS) and American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons (FASCRS).
Dr. Lorenzo has office hours at USA's Surgical Specialties Building on Tuesday (9 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.), Thursday (1 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.) and Friday (8:30 a.m. – noon). Dr. Lorenzo performs surgery at Erlanger Hospital, CHI Memorial Hospital, Parkridge and Parkridge East Hospitals. To schedule an appointment, call (423) 267-0466.