In just three-and-a-half years, Adena’s Robotic Surgery Program has gone from an upstart to being nationally recognized. For more than two years, the program has been one of only eight Case Observation sites in Ohio; hosting surgeons from across the U.S. who come to learn more about robot-assisted surgery techniques from Adena’s own Dr. Bill Sever.
Now, Dr. Sever, a general surgeon and Robotics Program lead physician, has taken his role as a proctor to these visiting surgeons a step further. He was recently named an Epicenter of Excellence for Robot-assisted Surgery. The designation comes from Intuitive Surgical, the maker of the daVinci® Surgical System. With this designation, Dr. Sever is one of only 21 general surgery Epicenters of Excellence in the nation; and one of just two in Ohio (the other is located in Warren, Ohio).
“This means Dr. Sever is among the top half of one-percent of all general surgeons using robotics,” said Jonathan Conta of Intuitive Surgical.
This achievement is quite impressive for someone who only began his own training for robot-assisted surgery in the summer of 2012. A vocal advocate for Adena to purchase the daVinci surgical robot, prior to the program’s start in Oct. 2012, Dr. Sever set high expectations for himself to help make the program a success.
“Because I advocated for the robot, I had no choice but to use it,” he said. “It was not an easy task to fully commit to Robotics. I was accustomed to doing six to eight cases a day, and early on using the robot slowed me down. I had to do fewer cases, which for a surgeon is difficult. But I made that commitment, and it’s really pushed me to become very proficient on the robot. I don’t do much laparoscopy anymore, aside from a couple of procedures. If I can’t do it robotically, I’m going to have to open the patient.”
Dr. Sever was selected as an Epicenter of Excellence based on his reputation as a trainer, the volume and breadth of the cases he performs, and the overall experiences visiting surgeons have had when they’ve come to Adena to observe and train with him. The Epicenter designation is assigned to the surgeon, as opposed to the organization.
In terms of how he became an Epicenter of Excellence, Dr. Sever added, “We’ve always had very good to great reviews from the visiting surgeons that come in. I don’t know if that’s necessarily a reflection upon me… it’s probably more of a reflection on the staff. Intuitive chose us. We didn’t solicit them.”
Dr. Sever gives a great deal of credit for his and the program’s success to his team. The caregivers in the Operating Room for his robotic procedures are usually the same group of people, including: First-assist Nurse Judy Cunningham, RN; Leslie Bryant, Surgical Tech, Robotic Team Leader; and Kelly Woyce, RN, Robotic Team Leader, Robotic Coordinator. The team has the process involved with robotic surgery down to an art.
“The group that is usually in the room for my robotic cases has done an extraordinarily good job of turning the room over efficiently. We aren’t sitting around between cases,” said Dr. Sever. “When visiting surgeons share their experience, they always make comments about the staff. They mention how quickly the room is turned over, the skillset of the circulating nurses and the scrub techs, and Judy.” He joked, “They often make her a job offer as they’re walking out the door!”
While he is now recognized among an elite group of trainers, Dr. Sever gets a great deal out of the teaching experience. “I love the ability to showcase something to someone else, and maybe they can pick it up,” he said. “I think it’s also going to make our surgical knowledge and expertise better in the future. I also learn from them. The process is more of a sharing of knowledge and experience with the physicians who come in to observe and train. I’m extraordinarily honest about complications or things I have changed based on my experience. But I also pick their brains about their experiences, and there are times when I pick up tips and tricks from them that I hadn’t thought about previously.”
Humbled by the accolades, Dr. Sever is quick to credit Adena for recognizing the value of not only bringing robotics to the Health System, but for also creating a talent base to meet the health needs of people in our communities and region.
A Chillicothe-area native, Dr. Sever added, “We have a tremendous breadth of talent and youth throughout our medical staff, and I’m just one of those individuals. If my folks get sick, I don’t think about taking them anywhere else, to some person that I don’t know. I’d much rather go to the people I know, and I know what their skills are.”
The talents of Adena’s physicians and surgeons, like Dr. Sever, are being recognized outside the community, especially by those who have seen him in action. Dr. Sever said he recently heard from a former trainee, a surgeon from a large Columbus facility, who had a patient ask about him specifically. The patient most likely learned about Adena’s Robotic Surgery program and Dr. Sever from seeing one of the Robotic Surgery advertisements that air on NBC4.
The patient and his surgeon were discussing a procedure the patient needed to have. The surgeon told the patient he would not be able to perform the operation laparoscopically; and if he did surgery, he would have to do it with a traditional opening. “The patient mentioned to the surgeon that he ‘heard about a surgeon in Chillicothe who can do this procedure robotically,’” said Dr. Sever. “The surgeon told the patient he had met me previously, and told him, ‘If somebody can do this robotically, I think he can.’ So the patient is coming to see us. That’s probably the biggest compliment.”
Soon to perform his own 1,000th robotic procedure, Dr. Sever is anxious to see Adena’s Robotic Surgery program expand.
“Personally I want to see more of us get up and running,” he said. “The thing that would probably make me smile, would be in two to three years, to have our volume demand that we purchase two or three more robots. I also want us to continue to advance our skill set and to have more colleagues up and running.”