Hospital Adds Robot to Surgical Staff

Surgical staff took off their masks to pose for a picture with Kitty. Note the console to the left of the patient and the monitor to the right. (Photo by Stephanie Faughnan)

  MANAHAWKIN – A robot named Kitty just captured a starring role at Southern Ocean Medical Center – destined for iconic status with other one-named celebrities like Madonna and Prince.

  A product of the da Vinci surgical system, Kitty’s placement in the operating room presents an advancement in the performance of minimally invasive surgeries.

  “This is really state of the art technology,” shared Michele Morrison, MPH, BSHA, RN, president and chief hospital executive. “Robotic assisted surgeries result in less healing time and less pain for our patients.”

  Kitty’s name keeps alive a late staff member from the Southern Ocean Medical Center. When news of the robot’s acquisition broke out, the surgical team launched a contest to select a name. The outcome resulted in an identity that conveys both innovation and a sense of compassion to patients.

Dr. Richard Greco, DO demonstrate the positioning of the robot and points out the visual display mounted to the wall. (Photo by Stephanie Faughnan)

  “The surgical robot was unanimously named Kitty to memorialize Susan “Kitty” Kamienski, our devoted surgical equipment tech,” said MaryClair Delbury, RN, BSN, CNOR, NE-BC, interim director of perioperative services as Southern Ocean County Medical Center. “Kitty was an inspiration to us all and will now be honored with this forever legacy.”

  Surgical staff members gathered last week to introduce Kitty and demonstrate the concept of robot assisted surgeries. Dr. Johnathan Reich, MD led the presentation and shared one of the system’s greatest benefits in minimally invasive surgeries.

  According to Reich, one of the goals in surgery is to keep trauma to the patient at a minimum. While laparoscopic surgery offers that advantage, robot-assisted surgery brings it to the next level as a complementary standard of care.

  “It enables you to operate like you’re doing open surgery, so you have a little more flexibility of your hand movements,” Reich explained. “Whereas if you’re doing standard minimally invasive surgery, the instruments are long and straight but they don’t really articulate in different directions.”

  Surgeons with privileges in other hospitals have already operated using robot-assisted surgery. Dr. Richard Greco, DO, a bariatric surgeon, illustrated a quick set up and use of the lengthy-clawed mechanical device.

  Greco placed Kitty over the pelvic region of the mock patient on the operating table. A monitor mounted high on the wall presented a visual display of the positioning with up to 10x magnification capacity.

  Operation of the robotic system occurs from a console behind the patient’s head. Greco manipulated the instruments from his seat and issued verbal commands.

  Patients concerned about technology fails should know safeguards are built into the system. Should an instrument lock or freeze, there’s always a way to flip a switch and disengage the instrument.

  Surgeons also have the ability to take over and pop off all the trocar access as the machine wheels away from the patient.

  “It basically then becomes a standard surgery,” shared Reich. “The same instruments we use for laparoscopy are all there.”

  Dr. Sergey Grachev, MD, a Manahawkin general surgeon, appeared elated with Southern Ocean Medical Center’s robot acquisition. He’s performed over 800 robot-assisted surgeries and will now be able to schedule procedures closer to where many of his patients reside.

Surgeons operate the robot from a console located just rear of the patient’s head. (Photo by Stephanie Faughnan)

  Staff surgeons who have not worked with robotic-assisted surgery receive training that includes use of a simulator and case observations.

  “Obviously, we’re all surgeons already so we know how to operate,” Reich said. “The operating is very straightforward and remarkably similar to the techniques we already use. Most of it is just getting familiar with the equipment and knowing how to do the equipment exchanges on the robot.”

  The medical center will be offering robotic-assisted surgery starting July 1 in general (bariatric, hernia, gallbladder), urology and thoracic specialties.

  Fundraising efforts initiated by the Southern Ocean Medical Center Foundation contributed to Kitty’s $2 million price tag. Pledge payments from the hospital’s four auxiliaries also supplemented the cost.

  “We’re all a big team here and love our community and see another asset to offering robot-assisted surgeries,” added Reich. “This will attract other physicians who have just been trained in all the latest and greatest techniques. They want to establish their life and career – and the robot will add to both recruitment and retainment of quality surgeons.”

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Stephanie A. Faughnan is an award-winning journalist associated with Micromedia Publications/Jersey Shore Online and the director of Writefully Inspired. Recognized with two Excellence in Journalism awards by the New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists, Stephanie's passion lies in using the power of words to effect positive change. Her achievements include a first-place award in the Best News Series Print category for the impactful piece, "The Plight Of Residents Displaced By Government Land Purchase," and a second-place honor for the Best Arts and Entertainment Coverage category, specifically for "Albert Music Hall Delivers Exciting Line-Up For 25th Anniversary Show." Stephanie can be contacted by email at