Donna Reyer first encountered Cornelius Verhoest, MD, in 2011 while reporting for Cablevision News. Reyer was interviewing him about the da Vinci Surgical System—which allows doctors like Verhoest, a urogynecologist, to perform extremely complex minimally invasive procedures robotically —for a story about cutting-edge surgical techniques. “I remember thinking, if I ever need surgery…this is the guy to do it,” she says, foreshadowing the circumstances under which their second meeting would take place. “He was incredible.”
Reyer’s impression wasn’t wrong: Today, as the Associate Director of Gynecology at MidHudson Regional Hospital, a member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network, Verhoest and his team have performed nearly 1,000 robotic surgeries, making them one of the most experienced robotics team north of Manhattan.
“When I agreed to put together this robotics program, I insisted on having a dedicated team… and I insisted that they were the very best.” – Dr. Verhoest
And though it’s true that many other hospitals are equipped to perform robotic surgery, few care to establish a fixed team dedicated to it entirely. “One of the big problems with robotic surgeries is that every time you walk into an operating room, you have a different team,” explains Verhoest. “You don’t know what you’re getting into, and you don’t have any confidence in your team. So when I agreed to put together this robotics program, I insisted on having a dedicated team…and I insisted that they were the very best.”
Verhoest’s team gives him the confidence to undertake complex surgeries that he might otherwise be hesitant to perform. “We do phenomenally complicated cases. For example, most gynecologists can do a laparoscopic hysterectomy–that’s pretty direct. But myomectomies [surgical
procedures to remove uterine fibroids] are much more complicated.”
Verhoest says that a patient might choose robotic surgery versus traditional minimally invasive surgery because “the surgeon can see so much better with the robot because we have 3D visualization. He also cites their use of wrist instruments (which provide more freedom of movement than straight-stick instruments), minimal pain and next-day discharge.
About a year after Reyer filed her story on the da Vinci Surgical System, she learned that she had uterine fibroids, and the recommended course of treatment was a partial hysterectomy. She knew just who to call. Recalls Reyer, “I thought, I can either live with this or I can do something about it. And I decided, I wanted to do something about it.”
So, in 2013, Dr. Verhoest and his team performed the surgery—robotically of course. “[They] were amazing. I felt like I was in great hands,” says Reyer. “But I already knew that from doing the story.”