Orlando Health-The Orlando Times

The Orlando Times

Orlando Health

Twin Sisters Bring Double Dose Of Diversity To Medicine


BY SABRINA CHILDRESS, Media Relations, Orlando Health

twins2Photo: Left to Right: Dr. Patrice Cates-Lonberger and Dr. Pamela Cates-Smith

ORLANDO - You can tell Patrice Cates-Lonberger and Pamela Cates-Smith are identical twin sisters. But what you might not know right away, is that the African-American doctors represent a small circle among their colleagues. Only 2.65 percent of doctors in the United States are African-American females, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Although small in number, the two doctors are making a vast impact. In addition to bringing diversity to the health care field, they also bring with them their personal beliefs that cultural competency is important for all doctors when caring for all patients, and a strong commitment to community.

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“Some patients have shared with me they feel a greater comfort level having a physician they connect with culturally or by gender,” said Dr. Cates-Lonberger. “As a physician it is important to see beyond your own diversity and learn through your patients about your patients. We are honored to be in medicine and to serve our patients.”

Together Pamela Cates-Smith, M.D., an obstetrician and gynecologist, and Patrice Cates-Lonberger, M.D., an internal medicine physician, welcome newborns into the world and take care of adults through various ages and conditions. The doctors practice at Orlando Health Physician Associates.

Before practicing in the same city, the two grew up in Gary, Indiana, and shared the same dream since the age of five — to become doctors. Their paths remained parallel from elementary school and beyond, both graduating from Howard University, a historically Black college, and Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis. Drs. Cates-Lonberger and Cates-Smith ranked number one and two, respectively, in their biology class at Howard.

“We knew at an early age we wanted to become doctors,” said Dr. Cates-Smith. “We grew up with a desire to care for people. As children we volunteered in the community with different organizations. Also, my aunt’s death from cervical cancer played a significant role in my interest in women’s health.”

The twins completed their residencies in different locations – Dr. Cates-Lonberger at Indiana University and Dr. Cates-Smith at Orlando Health. The medical paths recently reunited when Dr. Cates-Lonberger moved to the Orlando area this past summer. Dr. Cates-Smith has been with Orlando Health since 2009.

Their mission as doctors extends outside the exam rooms, as evidenced by their work in the community. Recognizing the importance of medical literacy, the two use their voices to build awareness about various health topics at community events, including church programs and health fairs.

“Medical literacy is important to healthy living,” said Dr. Cates-Smith. “While we focus on patient education during appointments, it is also important to us to share information in our community. There are so many medical conditions that impact communities of color disproportionately – diabetes, high blood pressure, infant mortality – to name a few. Knowledge can be the first step to making changes for healthier living.”

Both women of Christian faith, wives, and mothers of two children (a daughter and son each), the two founded Grace Girls Foundation, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to promote and empower girls and young women to develop self-esteem, self-worth, and self-awareness through character development, community service, leadership, and scholarship.

“We use our story to encourage young girls and young women to set their sights on their goals and know with perseverance and discipline they can achieve their goals,” said Dr. Cates-Lonberger.
As an obstetrician and gynecologist, Dr. Cates-Smith provides comprehensive health care for women throughout all stages of life. She has a special interest in irregular menstrual cycles, adolescent gynecology, and higher risk obstetrics. In addition to her work with Orlando Health Physician Associates, Dr. Cates-Smith also teaches in the Orlando Health Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies residency program.

As an internist, Dr. Cates-Lonberger provides comprehensive medical care and counsels patients on a range of lifestyle choices and changes to promote health and prevent disease. In addition to well patient visits, she combines her experience and clinical expertise with the latest scientific research and medical advancements to diagnose and treat patients with a wide range of conditions from common illnesses to complex diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, obesity and chronic lung disease.