Patient Stories

Robotic Surgery Treats Patient’s Prostate Cancer

Originally published November 1, 2020

Last updated May 6, 2024

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Prostate cancer patient Dick Martin

When Dick Martin learned he had prostate cancer, he immediately knew he wanted René Sotelo, MD, a surgeon at USC Urology, to oversee his treatment.  

Dr. Sotelo had operated on Dick’s wife, Judy Kenyon, in 2019 and the Pasadena couple was so pleased with her treatment that Dick never considered seeing any surgeon other than Dr. Sotelo or going to any hospital but USC Verdugo Hills Hospital.

“We were so impressed with how professional he is,” Dick says.

Judy adds that Dr. Sotelo took the time with them, making sure they understood the procedure, answered all of their questions and put them at ease, both when Judy needed to have benign polyps removed from her bladder and when Dick had to have his prostate removed.

Urologic surgeon Rene Sotelo, MD
René Sotelo, MD, a surgeon at USC Urology (Photo by Ricardo Carrasco III)

Dr. Sotelo, who is a professor of clinical urology in the Catherine and Joseph Aresty Department of Urology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, removed Dick’s prostate using a special surgical robot, which is uncommon at most community hospitals.

When Dr. Sotelo joined Keck Medicine in 2015, USC-VHH was like most community hospitals in that it did not offer robotic surgery. He pushed for Keck Medicine to transfer one of its robots to USC-VHH and in the spring of 2020, a second robot was added.

Broad range of robotic urologic procedures available

Now, patients from the Foothill communities can undergo a broad range of robotic urologic procedures at the hospital, from straightforward tumor removals to highly complex robotic surgeries, close to home.

USC Urology has more than tripled the number of faculty surgeons who operate at USC-VHH, with upwards of 200 robotic urologic procedures performed annually at USC-VHH.

And the hospital continues to expand its range of specialty procedures, offering aquablation therapy, a new addition in 2020.

The whole ambiance at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital is very professional and very comfortable and very hands-on.

Dick Martin, patient, USC Verdugo Hills Hospital

This outpatient procedure for patients with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is a less-invasive option with less recovery downtime and better outcomes. 

“USC has really brought five-star medical care to this community,” Dr. Sotelo adds, referencing USC Urology’s continued ranking among the top 10 urology programs in the nation by U.S. News and World Report.

In addition, the team of urologic surgeons at USC Urology is among the most experienced robotic urologic teams in the world. 

Judy Kenyon and Dick Martin, patients at USC Urology
Judy Kenyon and Dick Martin near USC Verdugo Hills Hospital (Photos by Kremer Johnson Photography)

‘Phenomenal’ prostate cancer care, steady recovery

But it wasn’t the hospital’s advanced robotics that prompted Dick and Judy to seek care at USC-VHH. Rather, it was the expert medical care and the personal touch that impressed them the most.

“The whole ambiance at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital is very professional and very comfortable and very hands-on,” Dick says.

Better still, Dick says his surgery went flawlessly.

Dr. Sotelo was able to remove the entire prostate and adjacent lymph nodes, while sparing all of the nerves, the removal of which can lead to serious side effects. His prostate-specific antigen levels dropped to near-zero after his surgery.

“Dr. Sotelo did a magnificent job,” Dick says. “He is just phenomenal. He has such grace about his workmanship and such care for other human beings.”

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Hope Hamashige
Hope Hamashige is a freelance writer for Keck Medicine of USC.

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USC Health Magazine 2024 Issue #1

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