Dr. David I. Lee, chief of Urology at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, is in constant pursuit of perfection. On Wednesday, November 3rd, at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, Lee completed his 2,500th robotic prostatectomy, cementing his place as one of the nation's most experienced robotic urologic surgeons. He began his training in robotics during his fellowship at the University of California at Irvine, and had 500 of the procedures under his belt by the time he came to Penn Medicine following several years practicing in Texas.
His patient for this impressive milestone was United States Federal Judge Robert Kugler, who presides over the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey in Camden. For Kugler, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer in early October, the choice to come to Penn Presbyterian for his surgery was simple – and, at a time when hospitals increasingly tout robotic surgery capabilities in advertisements, a testament to why patients should seek out a surgeon who has extensive experience with these procedures. “I was most intrigued by the robotic surgery, and the fact that Dr. Lee had done so many,” he says. “I talked to people who had gone to other programs, but I didn’t see any advantage to going to New York or Baltimore -- I didn’t think I could find anyone who had done more than him."
Lee says he’s especially rewarded by the excellent outcomes his patients have following their surgeries, and he’s pleased he can offer them so much experience with a procedure that’s aimed at reducing the feared urinary and sexual side effects of prostate cancer treatment. Patients typically return home from the hospital after just a day, and recovery tends to be quicker than with the open surgery that is otherwise used to remove the cancerous prostate gland.
“The guys do really, really well going through the whole process,” Lee says of his patients. “Because of the minimally invasive nature, they have very little pain and they do really well with their continence and erectile function. I think as I get more experience, these results keep getting better all the time.”
Another key facet to the success of the robotic prostatectomy program, Lee says, is the true commitment of the other members of the team, from department administration to the OR and floor nurses to the physician’s assistants who teach a pre-op class to robotic prostatectomy patients. That stellar teamwork is reflected in comments from patients, who even in the face of a new cancer diagnosis, “comment very positively about the whole journey that they have taken.”