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Kate & Lé, since 1986.jpeg

Kate  & Léonie, since 1986

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ABOUT DR. O'HANLAN (retired in 2021)

Dr. Kate O'Hanlan is a gynecologic oncologist whose research and publishing focus has been on the multiple applications of the minimally invasive (laparoscopic, tiny incisions) approaches for hysterectomy and staging of the gynecologic cancers, and in lesbian/gay/transgender health and civil rights.

Dr. Kate O'Hanlan was born and raised in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, graduated from Duke University with BS degrees in both zoology and psychology (body and mind). She studied medicine at the Medical College of Virginia, and did her residency training at Atlanta Medical Center. During her residency, she was mentored by Dr. Arnold Bernstein, who urged her to focus her career on cancer patients and complex surgery, engaging both her meticulous surgical skill and her compassion for her patients. She was accepted into one of thirty fellowships positions in Gynecologic Oncology, completing this subspecialty training at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia in 1986.

Dr. O’Hanlan then taught cancer surgery at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, until 1990 and then at Stanford University.


While at Einstein, Dr. O’Hanlan led the initiative to obtain health insurance for domestic partners of employees. This bill was passed unanimously by the faculty senate there. After she transferred to teach at Stanford University, she wrote the Domestic Partner Parity Bill, which would provide employment benefits for committed domestic partner couples comparable to those of married couples. Dr. O’Hanlan became President of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association in 1993 and continued her committed activism for the civil right of marriage.


In 1992, she began developing her technique for Total Laparoscopic Hysterectomy (TLH) and related cancer procedures that met all the surgical and oncologic standards she was trained to observe. She then published many journal articles on laparoscopic techniques which she pioneered, confirming that patients benefited from the much smaller incisions of laparoscopic surgery, compared to patients operated with the traditional open-incision technique. Nearly all patients go home the next day, and return to work within two weeks.  A typical open, abdominal procedure involves a five-to-seven inch incision and a six week recovery period.  


​By 2006, Dr. O'Hanlan saw that laparoscopic technology could be used to perform 98% of benign and most (but not all) gynecologic cancer conditions; but even with such well-documented benefits, there was a slow uptake in the mainstream use of these procedures in the early 21st century. She thus founded the Laparoscopic Institute for Gynecologic Oncology (LIGO) and wrote the course in 2006, certified by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, teaching over 2,600 surgeons from 43 countries around the world minimally invasive surgeries, using both cadavers and pelvic simulators. Dr. O’Hanlan was also a frequently invited speaker at the annual clinical meeting of the international Society for Gynecological Oncologists (SGO) and the American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists (AAGL), with 15 poster and video presentations, and 60 journal publications to date.


  • Outstanding Resident: Mitchell R. Sealy Award for Excellence, 1983 

  • Albert Einstein College of Medicine Faculty of the Year Award, 1987

  • Stanford University Alvin Rambar Teaching Excellence Award nominee, 1992 / 1994

  • American Business Women’s Association Award, 1993  

  • San Francisco Focus Best Bay Area Doctors, 1993  

  • Best Doctors in America, GYN Oncology, National Edition, 1994 / 1995  

  • Stanford School of Medicine Gender Equity Award, 1995  

  • Best Doctors in America, GYN Oncology, Pacific Region, 1996 /1997  

  • Stanford University Medical School Pre-clinical Teaching Award  Delegate, United States Department of Health and Human Services to the Canadian Women’s Health Forum, Ottawa, Canada, 1996  

  • San Francisco Focus Best Bay Area Doctors, 1997

  • American Academy of Family Physicians Teacher Recognition, 1997 

  • Bay Area Career Women’s annual achievement “LAVA” Award, 1997

  • Who’s Who of American Women, 1997 

  • Howard Brown Medical Center, Chicago, Friend for Life, 1998  

  • Gay Lesbian Medical Association Achievement Award, 1999

  • UCSF Center for Health and Aging: Advocacy Award, 2001 

  • American Civil Liberties Union: Frontline Award for Activism, 2003 

  • Best Doctors in America, Gynecologic Oncology, National Edition, 2003 

  • The Mautner Project Healing Works Award, 2004 

  • Best Doctors in the Bay Area, San Francisco Magazine, 2005 

  • Duke University Center for LGBT Life Leadership Award, 2005

  • Atlanta Lesbian Health Initiative: Healing Angel Award, 2006 

  • Gentry Health Magazine, July: Best Physicians in Bay Area, 2012 

  • Council of Gynecologic Endoscopy, Oncology Specialty AAGL, 2013

  • Dignity Health Acts of Humankindness Award, 2017 

  • Society for Gynecologic Oncologists’ Trailblazing Representation Award, 2019

  • D.A. Boyes Society Honorary Inductee, British Columbia, Canada, 2019


  • Investigational Review Board, Stanford University, 1992-2006    

  • Co-author of the Stanford University Investigational Review Board Policy on Inclusion of Women in Clinical Trials, implemented 1994

  • Chair, Total Parenteral Nutrition Committee, Stanford Hospital,1994-2002

  • Mentorship program for Minority Summer Research Program, 1995

  • O'Hanlan, Katherine A. "Recruitment and retention of lesbians in health research trials." Office of Research on Women's Health of the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, 1995

  • Policy on Herbal medication use at Stanford Hospital TPN and Nutrition Committee, 2002

  • Chair, Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee, Sequoia Hospital, 2005-2017

  • Policy on Herbal medication use at Sequoia Hospital, Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee member, 2005

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