Medical Center starts fellowship in Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery

Women’s health procedures are some of the most common surgical procedures done in the United States. In women’s surgery, about 60 percent of procedures performed in the U.S. are done with an open incision, which is called a laparotomy. However, there have been an increased number of patients who wish to have their procedures done with minimally invasive techniques. Providing patients with these advanced surgical techniques allows for a much shorter recovery time so the patient can get back to daily life more quickly. These procedures have less pain, less scarring, less blood loss, and fewer complications. Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center is a leader in minimally invasive surgery for women’s health, and doctors saw the opportunity and the need to train more specialists in this area of expertise.

Gerald Harkins, M.D. and Janis Green, M.D.

Gerald Harkins, M.D. and Janis Green, M.D.

Last fall, the Division of Urogynecology and Minimally Invasive Surgery in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Medical Center started a fellowship in Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery. The fellowship, which is accredited by the American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists (AAGL), is designed to provide advanced training in modern laparoscopic surgery for OB-GYN resident graduates. It will allow opportunities for gynecologists who have completed residency to acquire additional skills and to conduct research in minimally invasive gynecologic surgery, urogynecologic surgery, and reproductive surgery. Gerald Harkins, M.D. is the medical director and fellowship director for minimally invasive gynecological surgery.

Minimally invasive gynecologic surgery is used for common, yet complicated, procedures such as hysterectomies, ovarian conservation, and fertility preservation as well as for treatment of endometriosis, fibroids, congenital uterine abnormalities, and pelvic pain. Minimally invasive urogynecologic surgery can be used to treat incontinence and pelvic organ prolapses. . Harkins and his team are able to use minimally invasive techniques for all women’s health surgical procedures using advanced equipment, such as the da Vinci SI surgical system. Teaching fellows these techniques will allow for a large wave of change in women’s surgery. Being able to have fellows come to the medical center to receive training then return to other hospitals will have an impact on more women in the United States.

“We can do 100 percent of minimally invasive procedures for our patients, so it is important to train other surgeons to take these skills to other areas. The goal is to eventually have enough surgeons trained in minimally invasive surgery so every program can use 100 percent minimally invasive procedures,” Harkins said. “The impact this would have for women in society would be great because it can increase the quality of life for the patient. Women can return to work more quickly or get back to taking care of her children without a long recovery period.”

There will be one person enrolled each year in the one-year surgical fellowship. This year’s fellow, Janis Green, M.D., was chosen for the fellowship out of roughly 70 applicants. Green started her fellowship training in minimally invasive gynecological surgery, advanced laparoscopic surgery and female pelvic surgery on July 1. She previously was in private practice in Washington, D.C., but saw a unique opportunity for advanced training in this fellowship.

“My goal is to become proficient in complex minimally invasive procedures, robotic surgery, and urogynecology. This is an exciting opportunity for me to be able to provide an advanced level of care for my patients who desire a shorter recovery time,” Green said.

The fellowship in minimally invasive gynecologic surgery is the only in central Pennsylvania and is one out of thirty four accredited minimally invasive gynecologic surgery programs in the country. The fellowship program will serve as a Center for Excellence in Advanced Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery, Urogynecologic Surgery and Reproductive Surgery.  Learn more about minimally invasive surgery at the Penn State Hershey Minimally Invasive and Bariatric Surgery website.

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