Dr. Sujatha Prabhakaran has been a resident of Sarasota for six years and is the Medical Director of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida in Sarasota. She also lends her skills as a gynecologic surgeon at the Bay Pines VA Medical Center. Originally from Toledo, OH., she obtained her MD at the Medical College of Ohio and completed her residency training in obstetrics and gynecology at Wake Forest University and a fellowship in women’s health research/MPH (Health Policy and Management) at the University of North Carolina. She is focuses most of her research on family planning, particularly improving contraceptive access and reproductive health policy.
How did you come to live and work in Sarasota?
I moved here a little over six years ago for my current position. I wasn’t sure about the area being a young professional, but thought it was worth a risk since at worst I’d live on the beach for a while. But have found that I love Sarasota, so I stayed.
Why did you decide to become/pursue a career as an ob/gyn?
Ob/gyn have a lot of variety in our work. We perform surgery, can take care of women during pregnancy and see patients in the office. And while being a doctor is very difficult some days, it really is fulfilling to be able to help women and families every day at my job.
Explain a little more about what it is that you do at Planned Parenthood?
Half of my time at Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida is spent caring for our patients. The rest of my time is used on a mix of things, including auditing to allow for continual improvement of the care we provide, working with our executive team to lead our organization, conducting medical research, and teaching health professional students.
Talk a bit about the recent merger with Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida and two other planned parenthoods.
We are very excited about our recent merger. It has allowed us to care for more patients, be a stronger advocate for reproductive and sexual health, and also educate more Floridians about leading healthy lives. We now have a much larger service area, with 12 health centers through 22 counties; health centers as far east as Orlando and as far south as Naples.
What do you wish more people knew about PP, specifically our local one?
So many things, but probably most important is that we provide high quality, compassionate care that is guided by the most up to date medical evidence. The care we provide is the best you will find anywhere, and women can come see us all the way through menopause. Our patients don’t always realize that we can provide them with great care throughout their lives.
What is the work that you do at Bay Pines and how did you get involved there?
I perform gynecologic surgery there a few days a month. I have a physician colleague who needed help in the operating room. I respect our veterans deeply and love helping to care for them.
What are the most difficult part about your jobs?
Of both of my jobs, it is my concern for our patients. My patients trust me in some cases with their lives; it is an enormous responsibility and honor.
The other part of my Planned Parenthood work that is difficult is the presence of our opposition and protesters. We provide a breadth of services including cancer screenings, infection testing and treatment, contraception and abortion. I provide all of this care from a place of compassion and out of concern for the health of my patients. I understand that some people oppose safe and legal access to abortion, but I will never understand how those people protesting outside our health centers think they are helping anyone.
What are the most rewarding parts?
I leave work every day knowing that I helped someone, either get the surgery they needed, plan their family, get tested or treated, or by helping make our organization run as well as it can. That is really a wonderful feeling.
In your spare time, what do you enjoy doing?
Eating great food, trying not to binge watch Orange is the New Black, and taking early morning walks on the beach.
What’s one of your favorite local places to take people when they visit?
We recently discovered Robinson Preserve, so that will definitely be on the list. I also love the Ringling Museum and Ca d’Zan.
Why should young professionals stay in Sarasota?
Sarasota is beautiful, the culture and food are wonderful and the pace here to me seems just a little more relaxed than in other cities where there are also lots of other smart, motivated young people.
What is one piece of advice you would get to a local, young professional?
When I first arrived I was active with the Sarasota Young Professionals Group and met a number of friends there; I would certainly invite others to get involved there.