Former UH resident returns to head up new robotic surgery program
UH Innovations in Urology - Fall 2018
JASON JANKOWSKI, MD
Urologist, UH St. John Medical Center; Assistant Professor of Urology, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine
Combining expertise in robotic surgery with well-honed patient care skills gained from years of private practice, Jason Jankowski, MD, is starting a new robotics program at University Hospitals St. John Medical Center, a Catholic hospital.
Dr. Jankowski joined University Hospitals in September 2018, but he’s really not new. “I did my residency at UH, so I’m just coming back,” he says.
Following his residency, Dr. Jankowski completed a fellowship in urologic oncology and robotics surgery at City of Hope Cancer Center in Los Angeles. He then worked in private practice in Columbus, Ohio, until Lee Ponsky, MD, Interim Chair of the Department of Urology, enticed him back to UH with the opportunity to start a robotics program on the West Side of Cleveland. The fact that his wife grew up in the area and was happy to return home cinched the deal.
“City of Hope and my private practice both had big robotics programs, and I was looking for the new challenge of building something from the ground up,” Dr. Jankowski says. “I’m very excited about this opportunity.”
The new surgical robot was delivered to UH St. John Medical Center in October 2018. After training operating room staff, Dr. Jankowski hopes to begin treating patients in early November.
INNOVATIONS IN TREATMENT
When Dr. Jankowski completed his fellowship in robotic surgery in 2009, the technique was just coming to the forefront in urology. At that time, he says, about 50 to 75 percent of radical prostatectomy surgeries — the most common surgery in urology — were done robotically. Now, more than 90 percent are. “It’s almost become the standard of care,” he says.
The whole treatment algorithm has changed for prostate cancer, Dr. Jankowski says. “We now have lots of minimally invasive options for patients. We have robotic surgery, which has reduced hospital stays compared to open techniques, with less pain afterward and less risk of blood loss. These procedures allow patients a significant return to baseline. We have radiation and other treatment options that have also improved as far as side effects and return to baseline.”
Patients can be cured with these treatments, but even when prostate cancer spreads, Dr. Jankowski says, there’s a new arm of treatment with oral medications and a vaccine that improves survival. “From start to finish, the whole treatment algorithm has really progressed in the last 10 to 15 years,” he says.
“I love surgery and I love learning new techniques,” says Dr. Jankowski, who is also an Assistant Professor of Urology at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. “That is what drew me to urologic oncology. We have all these new surgical treatments coming to the forefront, such as robotic surgery and percutaneous treatment of kidney tumors.”
In addition, he says, patient outcomes with prostate or kidney cancer are often good. “We cure a lot of patients with surgery and other treatments. I enjoy seeing the successes, taking patients from the day they hear they have cancer — which is a terribly scary, shocking and life-changing moment — to the joy of getting them through their operation and getting them through recovery. In other fields of oncology, we don’t have that success story as much.”
Of course, not all patients have curable diseases. For these patients, Dr. Jankowski says, it’s rewarding to offer them a good quality of life through their disease state.
SETTING HIGH STANDARDS
Dr. Jankowski says he learned to be very efficient in private practice. “We took pride in doing things efficiently and having good care pathways,” he says. “I’d like to combine that aspect with the robotics expertise as we start the program at UH St. John Medical Center. I want patients to have a great surgical experience, where they feel like things moved quickly, they received good care and they got back to their lives in a timely fashion.”
The robotics program brings the medical advances of a quaternary medical center to patients who live on the West Side of Cleveland. “Patients are treated closer to home, which is always comforting and beneficial, and closer to the physicians who may take care of their other chronic conditions,” Dr. Jankowski says.
To make an appointment or discuss a patient case with Dr. Jankowski, call UH St. John Urology at 440-617-4726.