Actress Padma Lakshmi comes to MIT to raise awareness of endometriosis and help launch the new Center for Gynepathology.

Actress Padma Lakshmi comes to MIT to raise awareness of endometriosis and help launch the new Center for Gynepathology.

Padma Lakshmi, actress and host of the popular television program “Top Chef,” admits that it feels a little odd to talk about her period in front of an audience of total strangers. But she has realized that sharing her own history with endometriosis, a disease caused when scar tissue builds up outside the uterus, could help others who suffer from the disease.

“I don’t want other girls to just sit there smiling silently like nothing is wrong,” Lakshmi said Friday at the launch of MIT’s new Center for Gynepathology, which will bring together engineers, scientists and physicians to study endometriosis. Sporting a black dress that showed off her baby bump, Lakshmi had the mostly female audience in a Stata Center auditorium captivated with her story.

Like many who suffer from endometriosis, including MIT Professor Linda Griffith, director of the new MIT center, Lakshmi endured the pain for years before being diagnosed. Doctors told her that she was overly sensitive, or exaggerating her symptoms. Some thought her pain might be due to scoliosis, others said it might be because “you’re Indian and you eat really spicy food.”

Lakshmi’s teenage years were filled with missed school dances and failed exams, all because she had to spend several days in bed every time she had her period. “My mother prepared me for it because she had it, too. She told me it was just our lot in life,” Lakshmi said.

Working as a model and actress in her 20s and 30s, the disease kept Lakshmi in its grip, while doctors kept telling her nothing was wrong. She tried hard to pretend that nothing was wrong, and to keep up the frenetic pace of her life. But she had to make accommodations. “Everything I scheduled in my life, I always had to look at the calendar and say, ‘Am I having my period that week?’” If so, the calendar stayed empty.

Lakshmi, who recently turned 39, soldiered on until one day three years ago, when she experienced some unexpected and heavy bleeding during a photo shoot. Her doctor told her to go to a specialist, laparoscopic surgeon Tamer Seckin.

On the day of her appointment, Lakshmi was in a hurry because she was supposed to go to a fashion dinner that night. After her exam, she was e-mailing on her BlackBerry while waiting for Seckin to come in with the results. When he did, he asked her to turn her BlackBerry off — a sign, she felt, that he had bad news. He told her she had endometriosis and that “if we don’t take care of it, you will lose the ability to become a mother.” He told her that she had sublimated the pain so much she didn’t even know how much pain she was in.

For Lakshmi, it was a breakthrough. “For the first time, somebody in the medical field wasn’t telling me that I was sensitive, or emotional, or overdramatic. For the first time, someone finally said, ‘You have a problem, and if you don’t do something about it, you will not be well.’”

Three surgeries later, Lakshmi can’t believe the difference in her life, in terms of her mood and productivity. “It’s like night and day,” she said. “I treat my employees better … I’m nicer to my mom … This is what life is supposed to be like. Life is not supposed to be filled with pain just because you are a woman.”

To help raise awareness of “the disease that people don’t want to talk about,” Lakshmi and Seckin recently started the Endometriosis Foundation of America. Lakshmi said she also hopes that more researchers will direct their attention to the disease, following MIT’s lead. “I’m very, very moved that somebody finally has been hearing the silent cries and tears of women across the country,” she said.



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Top Chef's Lakshmi details struggle with illness
Top Chef's Lakshmi details struggle with illness

Lakshmi [along with Dr. Seckin] has become the driving force behind the Endometriosis Foundation of America, which together with researchers…

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How Padma Lakshmi Struggles with Endometriosis Management
How Padma Lakshmi Struggles with Endometriosis Management

For years, Padma Lakshmi -- best known as the host of Bravo’s hit reality show “Top Chef” -- has suffered silently…

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Patient Reviews

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  • Angela Aro

    I have struggled with endometriosis and adenomyosis since first starting my period at 13. I was diagnosed at 21 and what followed was a series of unsuccessful surgeries and treatments. My case was very aggressive and involved my urinary tract system and my intestines. After exhausting all of my local doctors I was lucky enough to find Dr. Seckin. We…

  • Emi O

    Seckin and Dr. Goldstein changed my life!

  • Kristin Sands

    Like so many women who have tirelessly sought a correct diagnosis and proper, thorough medical treatment for endometriosis, I found myself 26 years into this unwanted journey without clear answers or help from four previous gynecological doctors and two emergency laparoscopic surgeries. I desperately wanted to avoid the ER again; a CT scan for appendicitis also revealed a likely endometrioma…

  • Wilfredo Reyes

    Dr. Seckin literally gave my wife her life back. I am eternally grateful to him for his generous, determined spirit to see that Melanie finally live free from the prison bonds of Endometriosis.

  • Carla

    I am so grateful to Dr Seckin and Dr. Goldstein. My experience was nothing short of amazing. I was misdiagnosed with the location of my fibroids and have had a history of endometriosis. Dr. Seckin was the one who accurately diagnosed me. Dr Seckin and Dr. Goldstein really care about their patients and it shows. They listened to my concerns,…

  • Melissa Boudreau

    When I think of Dr. Seckin these are the words that come to mind. Gratitude, grateful, life-changing, a heart of gold. I feel compelled to give you a bit of background so you can understand the significance of this surgery for me. I am passionate about Endometriosis because it has affected me most of my life and I have a…

  • Jaclyn Harte

    Dr. Seckin and Dr. Goldstein radically changed my quality of life. They treat their patients with dignity & respect that I've personally never seen in the literally 25+ doctors I've seen for endometriosis. This summer, I had a surgery with Dr. Seckin & Goldstein. It was my first with them, but my 5th endo surgery. I couldn't believe the difference,…

  • Megan Rafael Moreno

    I was in pain for 2 years. I was getting no answers, and because dr Goldstein and dr seckins were willing to see and treat me I'm finally feeling almost back to normal. They were very down to earth and helpful in my time of need. Dr Goldstein was easy to talk to and caring, she took care of me…

  • Nancy Costa

    Dr. Seckin is one of the best endometriosis surgeon. Every time I go to the office, he really listens to me and is always concerned about my issues. Dr Seckin's office staff are a delight and they always work with me. I feel I can leave everything to them and they will take care of it. Thank you to the…

  • Rebecca Black

    Fast forward 5 years to find out incidentally I had a failing kidney. My left kidney was only functioning at 18%. During this time, I was preparing all my documents to send to Dr. Seckin to review. However, with this new information I put everything on hold and went to a urologist. After a few months, no one could figure…

  • Monique Roberts

    I'll never stop praising Dr. Seckin and his team. He literally gave me back my life.

  • Erin Brehm

    I had a wonderful experience working with Dr. Seckin and his team before, during and after my surgery. I came to Dr. Seckin having already had laparoscopic surgery for endometriosis 5 years prior, with a different surgeon. My symptoms and pain had returned, making my life truly challenging and my menstrual cycle unbearable. Dr. Seckin was quick to validate my…

  • Anita Schillhorn

    I came to Dr. Seckin after years of dealing with endometriosis and doctors who didn't fully understand the disease. He quickly ascertained what needed to be done, laid out the options along with his recommendation and gave me the time to make the right decision for me. My surgery went without a hitch and I'm healing very well. He and…

  • Nicholette Sadé

    Dr. Seckin brought me back to life! I am now 3 weeks into my recovery after my laparoscopy surgery, and I feel like a new and improved woman! Being diagnosed with Endometriosis, then 25yrs old in 2015, and discovering the severity of my case being stage 4, made me devastated. Dr. Seckin's vast knowledge of the disease, sincere empathy, and…