Dr. James “Jimmy” Orr has dedicated the last 30 years of his life to helping women with reproductive tract cancer. Now he is bringing his medical expertise to the Florida Board of Medicine.
“It’s always a surprise when you are blessed enough to be appointed by the governor to a committee of this magnitude,” said Orr, medical director of Lee Memorial Health System’s Regional Cancer Center and a Bonita Springs resident.
With credentials like Orr’s, the selection is really not too surprising. Orr has been Lee’s director of gynecologic oncology since 1999. He has authored four textbooks and is president of the Florida Obstetric and Gynecologic Society and a past president of the national Society of Gynecologic Oncologists. He also is a board member of the American Cancer Society and vice chairman of the Lee Memorial Health System Foundation.
“He has been instrumental in changing the way women’s cancer care is presented and really changing patient outcomes,” said Sharon MacDonald, chief foundation officer and vice president of the cancer center. She has worked with Orr for the last decade to develop and expand Lee Memorial’s cancer care program.
She attributes Orr’s success to his ability to create genuine relationships with his patients.
“We get frequent comments on how much they value him,” MacDonald said. “He’s a true women’s advocate.”
Gov. Rick Scott has appointed Orr to a term ending October 31, 2013. “If you get to a level of assisting with medical care at a state level, you really have the opportunity to make change,” Orr said.
He succeeds Dr. Frank Farmer on the board and has not yet been assigned to any of the board’s 14 committees. “A large portion of this is looking at complaints filed against practitioners and potential actions,” Orr explained.
The full Board of Medicine meets every other month in various locations around the state and is responsible for disciplinary cases, licensure approvals and public health policy recommendations.
“To have the opportunity to be a part of a major, growing state and develop what I feel should be best care to all who are involved is huge,” Orr said. “Who wouldn’t want to step forward and do that?”
The appointment will mean devoting time to information gathering, analysis and conference calls, but Orr is used to a busy schedule. Along with his work for Lee Memorial, he also is a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology for the University of South Florida in Tampa. He gives frequent lectures, writes extensively for medical journals and is currently associate editor of Gynecologic Oncology, the American Journal of Clinical Oncology and an editorial consultant for the European Journal of Surgical Oncology.
His wife, Vicki, is chief financial officer for NCH Healthcare System. The Orrs moved from Fort Myers to Bonita Springs last year, splitting the distance between the two hospitals.
“We keep busy,” he said. “It makes for a lot of fun conversation.”
Before moving to Florida, Orr was associate professor and medical director of the Division of Medical and Surgical Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he completed his residency and fellowship. He received his medical degree from the University of Virginia.
Orr said he likes living in Southwest Florida, where his family enjoys “getting sand between our toes.” Orr works out four to five times a week and loves dining out and watching movies. Bruce Willis’ “Die Hard” films are among his favorites.
Orr has three children and is an ordained elder of Covenant Presbyterian Church and a trustee for New Hope Presbyterian Church in Fort Myers. He is a member of 22 medical societies and has received numerous honors and distinctions.
In 2004, he was named to “America’s Top Physicians” by the Research Council of America.
Orr said he went into gynecologic and obstetric oncology because he wanted to help women. “I fell in love with surgery and the important aspects of critical care,” he explained.
Like all good physicians, Orr is required to stay on top of ever-advancing medical research and technology. “Medical knowledge essentially doubles every five years,” he said.
Twenty years ago, the survival rate for ovarian cancer was just 15 percent; today it has increased to nearly 60 percent, Orr said. Cases of cervical cancer, once considered the No. 1 killer of women, have been reduced from more than 100,000 new cases a year in the 1960s to less than 10,000 today.
Orr is eager to bring his extensive knowledge and experience to the state Board of Medicine.
“There are many aspects where I could improve quality of care and individual care,” he said. “I’m honored Governor Scott would appoint me.”