Babies, Beauty and Robots—Oh My! Technology-Forward Women’s Health Practice Adapts to the Times
In her 20 years of practicing medicine, OB-GYN physician Yvette Gentry (Medical Director, East Bay Women’s Health, Inc. and Assistant Clinical Professor, UCSF) has always taken a technology-forward approach. At the vanguard of robotic surgery, Dr. Gentry became Oakland’s first OB-GYN to provide her patients with minimally invasive, robotic surgery using the da Vinci Surgery system. Since 2005, she has been considered the most experienced OB-GYN da Vinci surgeon at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, and will open a second office in Alameda this month.
Tell me a little about your practice.
I’ve been in Oakland for over 20 years and was the first African-American OB-GYN providing comprehensive women’s reproductive health and prenatal services to the downtown Oakland community. Our office consists of two other OB-GYNs and two nurse practitioners.
I was also the first OB-GYN to perform robotic surgery in Oakland using the da Vinci Surgery system. The robot allows me to perform a variety of minimally invasive surgeries to remove cysts, fibroids, or treat endometriosis—an incredibly painful disorder—quickly and efficiently. Patients once debilitated by severe pain, heavy bleeding, and cramps can now go home the same day feeling better, and with greatly improved long-term outcomes. It’s great technology.
How have procedures for obstetrics changed in the past decade?
With the advent of robotics, women who were once told “Nope, that uterus has to come out” now have options to hysterectomy. Today, we can perform myomectomies to fibroids from the uterus or cysts from the ovaries. Now, the uterus can be left in place making pregnancy more likely for women who are trying.
How do surgeons learn how to use the da Vinci Surgery system?
To be considered for da Vinci training, surgeons learning the robotic system need to be performing high volumes of procedures. After the company saw the number of laparoscopies (fiber-optic assisted) surgeries I was performing, they asked if I wanted to be trained in the system. I underwent an extensive education and several hours of training at da Vinci’s headquarters, and with other qualified physicians.
Now, I’m a “proctor” for the company and train other doctors in the techniques to ensure their expertise with the system. It takes many hours of training to become proficient. But with these new technologies, we are all trying to learn new skills and bring each other up. I’m very fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn this extraordinary technology, share my knowledge, and bring this service to my patients.
What are the benefits of da Vinci Surgery system?
I can make smaller incisions, and perform delicate surgeries with amazing precision and much faster healing times. With traditional laparoscopy, our movements are mirrored on the monitor. In other words, if I move my hand to the left, it moves to right on the monitor. Training your mind to compensate takes an enormous amount of mental focus.
Using miniaturized “wristed instruments” and a high definition camera inserted into the body, the movements of my hands are translated directly to the instrument. The on-screen instrument is an extension of my hand, and I’m performing surgery using natural and intuitive movements.
Like any surgery, there are risks involved. The robotic system is very safe, but it is only as good as its operator. A surgeon using the robot goes through extensive training, so it’s not something a one just “dabbles” in. It also takes volume. I was one of the few doctors in the area performing a high quantity of laparoscopic surgeries – which made me a good candidate.
It takes a lot to learn the robot – a doctor needs to be able to move the camera in and out, tie a knot, thread a needle, sew, and other delicate movements. Fortunately, we have simulators to learn and train with.
Another benefit to the da Vinci system is something doctors don’t like to talk about much, but robotic surgery also gives me longevity in my medical career. After years of hunching over patients, gripping instruments, straining to look up at monitors, and standing on our feet for long hours, many doctors begin to suffer from arthritis. Now, I’m seated comfortably near my patient where I’m able to perform surgeries quickly and efficiently – with the best possible outcomes.
How does your practice differ from other OB-GYNs?
Besides prenatal and reproductive health services, we also provide aesthetic services to our patients.
Women, and men, who wouldn’t feel comfortable going to a plastic surgeon, were asking about aesthetic procedures. They trust me, and, as I age with my patients, I wanted to learn more.
I travelled to Beverly Hills medical spas to research and learn how to administer a variety of treatments. Now, we have a laser, and I’m trained in laser hair removal, vein treatments, and skin treatments, as well as injectables–like Botox and Restalyne. I also carry products specifically for African American or dark skin types and treat men for ingrown hairs in their beards. From babies to beauty–I like to mix it up!
Is there anything you’d like to add about your practice?
Yes – we’re opening a satellite office in Alameda in October. We’re taking over for a retiring physician who offered me her practice. We’ll be able to perform ultrasounds, pap smears, prenatal visits and tubal ligations at our satellite office and I’ll be there part time. One of my nurse practitioners lives moments away–she’s thrilled!
I did a little research and discovered there’s no female on the island who delivers babies, provides pre-natal care, or other women’s health services. Alameda has a population of 70,000 people – and no female OB-GYNs–so I decided this is the right thing to do.
3300 Webster St., Suite 1200, Oakland, 510-653-0846
512 Westline Drive, Suite 103, Alameda, 510-653-0846
Pictured above, from left to right: Irene Lee NP, Yvette Gentry MD, Catherine Maier NP, Andrea Mendelssohn MD, Carla Stelling, MD.