Gift Enhances Saint Marys Robotics

January 26, 2007
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GRAND RAPIDS — High-tech surgery got a boost at Saint Mary's Health Care in Grand Rapids last week, with a $1 million donation from retired jeweler Tom Fox, his wife, Mickie, and their family.

The gift will establish the Tom and Mickie Fox and FamilyCenter for Advanced Robotics and Minimally Invasive Surgery, Saint Mary's CEO Phil McCorkle said last week.

"I'm learning a lot of things medically that I never really knew existed before," Fox said from his home in Sarasota, Fla. "It scared me at first when they started talking about robotic surgery. But we are convinced, definitely convinced, that the robotics surgery is the future of probably of almost all surgery. It's definitely the coming thing."

The Fox family has supported a similar effort at Spectrum Health and Fox said his family is happy to back the Saint Mary's program as well. Fox said he thinks supporting robotic and minimally invasive surgery provides a high impact in improving people's lives.

"This is the wave of the future, because minimally invasive surgery means smaller incisions, significant reduction in risk of infection, faster healing, and shorter hospital stays, and less dependence on pain-relieving drugs," McCorkle said.

Saints Mary's already uses the robotic DaVinci device for prostate surgeries, but it also can be used for thoracic and gynecological surgery.

"This significant gift from the Fox family will open up opportunities for physicians to be trained on the DaVinci and other robotic devices for surgery that is currently not available in Grand Rapids," McCorkle said.

The center will be located in a surgical suite at the main hospital, said Dr. Timothy Fitzgerald, medical director of surgical oncology at the LacksCancerCenter

"We will now be able to advance our efforts to the next level. This also allows us to advance the possibilities of other applications, such as thoracic surgery, and will enable us to help many more patients," Fitzgerald added.

Fox said he once had the opportunity to actually control the DaVinci at a demonstration. "I picked up vegetables, and I'm not going to tell you that anyone would want me to operate on them," he joked.

"We're happy to be giving back to the community that's been so good to us. We were just delighted because we are so excited about robotic surgery."    

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