August 4, 2011

Urologic Surgery thrives on team approach

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Jay Smith, M.D., consults with Urologic Surgery Nurse Practitioner Nichelle Ardisson, MSN, R.N., in between seeing patients in clinic. (photo by Daniel Dubois)

Urologic Surgery thrives on team approach

For the fourth year in a row, Vanderbilt’s Department of Urologic Surgery has placed in the top 10 in U.S. News and World Report’s ranking of health disciplines.

Jay Smith, M.D., chair of Urologic Surgery, says his department owes its continued success both to the skill of its faculty and to the team approach taken within the department and throughout Vanderbilt.

“This is a very difficult area of surgery. Your quality of life can be destroyed by the problems addressed by urologic surgery and could also be destroyed by the solution,” Smith said.

The Department of Urologic Surgery boasts 24 full-time faculty members, making it one of the largest in the country. Over the years it has attracted, and retained, people who are national leaders.

“My job is to do everything I can to facilitate their development and give them what they need. They are terrific and a great deal of what I need to do is to get out of their way,” Smith said.

But Smith’s own example sets the bar quite high. He is recognized as a leader in minimally invasive robotic surgery, having performed more than 3,000 robotic prostatectomies.

He travels several times a year to war-torn, developing African countries to provide urologic repair for women who are victims of violent rape or traumatic childbirth.

His faculty and staff are similarly dedicated.

Many of them are recognized for their expertise in their subspecialized areas. And several travel to the far reaches as well, providing surgical services in many African countries.

A coordinator for global outreach is currently being sought to handle the growing global outreach efforts.

The department is a national leader in training, with one of the most highly regarded residency programs in Urologic Surgery as well as four subspecialty fellowships: pediatric urology; urologic oncology; female pelvic medicine and reconstruction; and minimally invasive surgery.

Faculty work deeply in the basic sciences, led by nationally renowned research director Robert J. Matusik, Ph.D., professor of Urological Surgery, Cell & Developmental Biology and Cancer Biology. David Penson, M.D., MPH, professor of Urologic Surgery and director of the Vanderbilt Center for Surgical Quality and Outcomes Research, has ignited one of the fastest growing areas of research in the department: health care outcomes and policy.

“Many fellows seek research in that area. They are charged with evaluating and objectively assessing outcomes medically and scientifically, and correlating those results with social and financial factors.

“This is the crux of what is going on nationally with health care reform,” Smith said.

The depth of practice within the department sets the stage for future successes, but Smith says an essential key is Vanderbilt’s collegial atmosphere, both between departments and within his own department.

“We could not be as successful as we have been if it weren’t for dedication from top to bottom.

“There are no stand-alone superstar doctors. They recognize — and I do too — that success comes from all of the members of the team,” Smith said.