Epsteins’ lead $1M gift launches fellowship in minimally invasive urologic surgery
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center has been performing advanced minimally invasive urologic surgery for more than 10 years. During this time, thanks to high-quality surgeons and a strong educational core, the program has skyrocketed to become a leader in the field, pioneering new techniques and treating patients who otherwise might not receive care. Now, with a little help from the patients they serve, the Division of Urology is adding a critical new piece to its repertoire that will help attract leading surgical trainees from around the country and further bolster BIDMC’s already nationally recognized program.
In response to outstanding care from Andrew Wagner, M.D., director of minimally invasive urologic surgery, and William DeWolf, M.D., chief of the Division of Urology, Esta and Robert Epstein generously donated the lead gift of $1 million to establish and name the Esta and Robert Epstein Fellowship in Minimally Invasive Urologic Surgery. More than $500,000 in additional philanthropy from grateful patients and donors has helped to launch this endowed fellowship, which will focus on advanced techniques for treating urologic cancer. “Our entire goal around this work is to care for patients,” Wagner says. “When they feel like they get outstanding care, it makes us feel proud about what we are doing and the teams we have built.”
The Division of Urology at BIDMC is home to some of the most highly skilled, fellowship-trained surgeons who are experts in minimally invasive surgery, which includes advanced robotic and laparoscopic techniques used on the kidney, prostate, and bladder. Compared to traditional open-incision operations, minimally invasive surgery is conducted through four or five very small incisions allowing patients to recover faster, typically with less blood loss and lower infection rates.
But acquiring the skills required to perform these technically precise surgeries is no simple task. BIDMC’s dedication to education is what sets it apart from other institutions in Boston and around the country. For the last five years, Wagner has led the only robotic urologic surgery teaching course in New England—a two-day seminar, which includes lectures, live robotic surgery, and hands-on training using robotic simulation and inanimate tissue models designed at BIDMC. The recent addition of a funded fellowship program will attract the best and brightest minds in the field to the medical center for more specialized training. “We are trying to change the culture of how urology is practiced,” DeWolf says. “We are very active in adding new ideas to the urologic literature.”
The Epstein Fellowship supports a one- or two-year experience after urologic residency that not only encompasses focused training in minimally invasive and robotic surgery but also provides the protected time to teach residents and medical students, conduct vital research, and innovate in the field. “You will become an expert at the surgeries that you are doing, you will become more of an expert in understanding and performing research, and you will become more of a teacher,” DeWolf says of the prospective fellow. “It will allow you to become a thought-leader in the field.” The fellowship also now ensures that the medical center can develop the next generation of surgeons, who can continue to offer the same expert, personalized care that BIDMC patients have come to expect. “We are very grateful to the patients who supported this fellowship not only because they are fulfilling one of our driving needs,” DeWolf says, “but also because they are connecting us with what we are trying to do, which is provide great care.”