September 19, 2019
The Health Care Improvement Foundation’s (HCIF) Partner Profiles highlight the efforts of valued and innovative health leaders. Our partners’ work supports HCIF’s vision for a responsive, coordinated health care community that fulfills the needs of patients and consumers to achieve better health.
Dr. Robert G. Uzzo, MD, FACS currently serves as the Chair of the Department of Surgical Oncology at Fox Chase Cancer Center at Temple University Health System. Nationally known as a leader in the field of urologic oncology, Dr. Uzzo has made important clinical, scientific and educational contributions to the Department of Surgery. In addition to his extensive clinical practice, he oversees research laboratory initiatives studying molecular mechanisms of genitourinary cancers. Dr. Uzzo serves as PURC’s Executive Director lending his expertise in program development, implementation, and evaluation .
Dr. Jay D. Raman, MD, FACS currently serves as Professor of Surgery and Chief of the Division of Urology at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. His clinical practice focuses on robotic-assisted surgery for upper and lower tract urologic cancers. Dr. Raman also serves as Chair of the American Urologic Association (AUA) Video Education Committee, Course Director of the Fundamentals in Urology AUA Course, and Secretary of the Mid-Atlantic AUA section. Dr. Raman serves as the PURC Director of Prostate Programs through which he supports HCIF with setting goals, establishing metrics, and identifying approaches and activities that best support participating practices.
Did you know?
September is National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. Our team asked Dr. Uzzo and Dr. Raman some questions about their careers in Urology, prostate cancer awareness, and their experiences with PURC.
Learn more about Prostate Cancer Awareness Month here.
How did you become interested in Urology?
Dr. Uzzo: Urology has always offered the best of surgical care and medical care. It is one of the few specialties to offer such a breadth of options for patients from endoscopy to robotics to open surgery to medical management. The diseases that affect the genitourinary tract are very common. In fact nearly 1 in 5 cancers affects organs of the GU tract. This means that as a urologic oncologist you have the opportunity to affect so many patients’ lives. Finally, I had wonderful mentors who loved their careers.
Dr. Raman: I always was interested in pursuing a career in surgery even upon entering medical school. In fact, I thought I would be a cardiac surgeon. During the summer after my first year of medical school, I had the fortune of meeting the Chair of Urology at Cornell (E. Darracott Vaughan, MD) who opened my eyes to the field of urology and all of the disease processes and procedures this specialty performed. I was hooked on Urology as a career after that.
What is one thing you think people should know about prostate cancer?
Dr. Uzzo: Although prostate cancer is so common, with nearly
200,000 cases in the US diagnosed per year, only about 12-14% of men with
prostate cancer die from prostate cancer.
There are many reasons for this ranging from biology to effective management options even for the most advanced cases.
Put simply, most men beat prostate cancer!
Dr. Raman: Unlike many other malignancies, prostate cancer is a heterogeneous or mixed bag of cancers. Certain types are slow growing or indolent and are unlikely to impact life expectancy, while others are more aggressive and warrant appropriate treatment. The critical element of prostate cancer screening is not only identifying the presence of malignancy, but also tailoring management to a patient’s specific type of cancer thereby personalizing individual care for patients.
What are your greatest accomplishments within your field so far?
Dr. Uzzo: I have been very lucky to learn from great physicians, surgeons and nurses at NY Cornell Presbyterian where I went to medical school, Memorial Sloan Kettering where I spent a good part of my residency and Cleveland Clinic where I did my two fellowships. These individuals inspired me to study and understand the diseases we treat more deeply. As such, to date I have authored or co-authored over 800 peer reviewed papers, chapters, books and abstracts. Each of these are an attempt to improve the care I deliver to my patients and to contribute to the field so that others can improve their care.
Dr. Raman: It is never easy to pat yourself on the back but probably what I am most proud of is helping change the face of the Urology program at Penn State Health. When I started at Penn State 11 years ago, we were a smaller community based program with 4 urologists. We now have grown to 23 total providers with subspecialty training across all areas in Urology. Furthermore, this growth has allowed us to broaden and grow our research programs and join quality initiatives such as PURC which greatly enhance the care we can provide to patients in Central Pennsylvania.
If you could motivate people in your field to tackle one issue or address one challenge, what would it be?
Dr. Uzzo: Healthcare delivery is extremely complex. Patients are easily overwhelmed by the diseases they face and the diagnostics and treatments recommended. As such, one of the greatest issues we face in medicine is our inability to match treatment intensity with disease risk. This leads to both over-treatment of some diseases (for example very low risk prostate cancer) and under-treatment of others (due to the limitations of our therapies).
One of the greatest issues in our field is therefore the development of biomarkers to help us provide the right treatment for the right disease in the right patient at the right time so that we can minimize effects on quality of life while maximizing efforts to extend life.
Dr. Raman: I would ask persons to look at their own practices and identify one area where the potential exists to improve the quality of care being delivered. Often times, these may not seem like earth shattering issues, but they are often very actionable. In my case, this motivation has prompted my decade long investigation into making prostate needle biopsy (to diagnose prostate cancer) a safer procedure.
What have you found most valuable about PURC?
Dr. Uzzo: PURC is the second largest urologic quality collaborative in the country. Despite advances in information technology, doctors in different health systems rarely have the ability to share and compare the results of their care as directly as we can in PURC. This voluntary effort to improve care with my colleagues across the region is one of the most valuable assets of PURC.
Dr. Raman: PURC is a remarkably collegial and interactive group all working together collaboratively to improve care for the prostate cancer patient. When compared to other quality program or data sets, I find that PURC gives me information and ideas that I can take back and implement immediately. Collectively, this is highly appealing to our patients but also to providers who understand that it is our data that is driving changes to improve care.
In his free time, Dr. Uzzo enjoys traveling. When asked about his favorite destination he answered: “I have been fortunate to travel across the globe and have even visited every continent…..twice. While most might answer this question with a warm and sunny place, two of my favorites were Iceland and Antarctica (in their summer season). The pristine, magnificent, and powerful beauty of nature were on full display.” To connect with Dr. Uzzo, you can find him on LinkedIn.
Dr. Raman also shared some fun facts about himself. When asked about his favorite hobbies, he answered: “Running. It gives me 30-60 minutes a day when I give my mind a break from the daily grind.” We’re glad to hear our physician partners are able to catch a break when they are not busy saving lives! To get in touch with Dr. Raman, you can email him, follow him on Twitter (@urojdr) or find him on LinkedIn or Doximity.