By Joel Hall
Darrell Carmen, Southern Regional Medical Center's (SRMC) lead urologist and a skilled surgeon, was recognized in the May issue of Black Enterprise magazine as one of America's leading doctors.
Dr. Carmen, 44, a native of Baton Rouge, La., and a graduate of the Louisiana State University School of Medicine, moved to the Atlanta area in 1995, and has been a surgeon in the Southern Crescent area ever since. Specializing in matters of the urinary tract, Carmen spends his time correcting issues ranging from prostate cancer, to kidney stones, to erectile dysfunction.
"I like fixing things," he said, and that attitude inspired him to pursue surgery in medical school.
Black Enterprise honored Carmen, not only for being a leader in his field, but for being a leader in the community, in spreading awareness about prostate cancer.
"In this country, women are the gatekeepers of health care because they put emphasis on it," said Carmen. "Unfortunately, men don't put emphasis on it. Breast cancer gets more funding for research than prostate cancer because of that reason. I do a lot of speaking in the community, health fairs ... things of that sort," he added.
Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer in men over the age of 40, and Carmen said one in eight men will be diagnosed with it in their lifetime.
"We have to continue to make people more aware of this disease," he said. "You can make better decisions when you are informed."
As a leading African-American urologist, Carmen said he has occasionally confronted challenges from the medical community as well as patients.
"There are probably 150 urologists in the metro Atlanta area," he said. "There are probably 10 black urologists, so there are not a lot of us. On occasion, you will notice that people will second guess you because you are black.
"Occasionally, I get a patient, but they don't know my race until I see them," Carmen continued. "They get here and say that they don't want to see a black doctor. It upsets my staff more than me."
Carmen said he has focused his efforts on ensuring patients in the Southern Crescent have access to the latest advancements in urological treatment. Recently, he helped persuade SRMC to purchase the da Vinci Surgical System, the latest breakthrough in prostate cancer surgery.
At this time, he said, St. Joseph's Hospital in Atlanta, Northside Hospital in Atlanta, and SRMC in Riverdale are the only three hospitals in the metro Atlanta area to utilize the technology.
The da Vinci Surgical System does for prostatectomy what arthroscopy has done for knee surgery, making a once largely-invasive surgery into a minimally-invasive procedure, using robotic arms to make five finger-sized incisions around the abdomen. The new procedure greatly reduces blood loss and pain, and greatly hastens the patient's recovery time.
Carmen said many doctors eventually leave surgery, but he plans to stay because he enjoys interacting with people.
"Life's short," he said, "so if you can make somebody's day better, you've done a good deed for that day."