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Dr Angelita Habr-Gama was born in the north of Brazil and grew up in the city of São Paulo.
She had set a goal for herself: to get into one of the best universities in the country and to become a physician. She was well succeeded entering the University of São Paulo School of Medicine. Less than 10% of her medical school class was female.
Her surgical performance during internship caught the attention of her supervisors, and this had a decisive influence on her choice of specialty as well as on facilitating her application for a residency in surgery – a specialty in which there were no women at that time. She was the first in the examinations and later become one of the first women surgeons in Brazil.
After deciding to pursue coloproctology, then an emerging subspecialty, Angelita traveled to England and trained at St Mark’s Hospital under Alan Parks, HE Lockhart-Mummery, Henry Thompson, Ian Todd, Basil Morson, and Cuthbert Dukes; in Oxford under Sidney Truelove; and in Leeds under John Goligher.
On her return to the University of São Paulo Medical School, her career was marked by a series of major accomplishments. She pioneered the field of research on anorectal physiology in Brazil, and set up the country’s first anorectal physiology laboratory. After finishing her doctoral thesis on motility aspects of Chagas disease, she went on to develop the sphincter-saving surgical technique of delayed coloanal anastomosis for the treatment of rectal cancer, which was the subject of the thesis she submitted to qualify as Associate Professor.
Her special interest in new developments has led Angelita to learn them and to introduce many of them to Brazil – including colonoscopy, which she trained with Jerome Waye, mechanical suturing, the artificial sphincter for the treatment of fecal incontinence, and video laparoscopy. Recently, she has been engaged in evaluating the immediate and long-term follow-up results of a multimodal treatment for low rectal cancer.
Having been in practice for over 30 years, Angelita has earned her reputation for excellence in digestive tract surgery, with more than 200 papers published in indexed journals and recognition in the form of a large number of national and international prizes and awards.
In addition, she has been the only woman President of the Latin American Association of Coloproctology and the Brazilian Society of Coloproctology, Vice-President of the Brazilian College of Surgeons, and Governor of the American College of Gastroenterology in Brazil.
She has also served as a member of the editorial boards of many prestigious international journals (British Journal of Surgery, Coloproctology, Surgical Endoscopy, Ultrasound and Interventional Techniques).
As a distinguished educator, Full Professor and Director of the Department of Gastroenterology and of the Colorectal Unit at the University of São Paulo Medical School, she has been invited to give more than 1000 lectures and has nurtured the career of hundreds of trainees, graduate and postgraduate students, and residents. She has worked hard to establish residency training in coloproctology in Brazil, and to create two prestigious research training program in the specialty.
She was appointed South American Coordinator of the Colorectal Cancer Prevention Campaign by OMGE.
In 2002 she was granted the Honorary Member title by the scientific society American Surgical Association during its 122nd Congress in Hot Springs – Virginia from April 25 to 27, 2002, being the 60th foreign member of this society and the 1st woman to be granted the title.
She has been chosen, by the Board of Regents of the American College of Surgeons, to be granted the Honorary Fellow title of this College at the next clinical congress to be held in October 2004 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Angelita is married to Joaquim Gama-Rodrigues, MD.