As in many areas of medicine, advancements in laparoscopic and robotic-assisted procedures have significantly changed the outlook of urology, often yielding better outcomes and improved recovery times. A prostatectomy, for example, once involved an abdominal incision that stretched from the belly button to the pubic bone, but with the use of a sophisticated robotic surgical system, surgeons pass small robotic instruments through tiny keyhole incisions to remove the prostate with precision, their hands never entering the body cavity. This is one example of the state-of-the-art technologies available at Staten Island University Hospital’s Department of Urology, and following the appointment of Anurag K. Das, MD, FACS, the new Chief of Urology and Interim Chairman of Urology, there are many more on the way.

“These new technologies are incredibly exciting,” noted Dr. Das, who joined SIUH last fall. “The last big advancement in our field was the ability to perform many surgeries laparo scopically with robotic assistance, and it has made recovery from once-major procedures a lot faster. There have also been several advancements in cancer treatment for kidney and bladder cancers. We are able to extend life spans for people with diseases that once had no cure.”

A highly decorated urologist – he has been ranked as a Castle Connolly Top Doctor since 2008 – Dr. Das has been in practice for more than 30 years and has a special interest in neuro-urology, a field that focuses on disorders of the bladder associated with spinal injuries and neurological illnesses. He has performed numerous clinical studies on BPH (prostate gland enlargement) and incontinence over the years, and has published more than 50 articles, penned numerous book chapters, and presented at meetings all over the world, from Portugal to India to Turkey. In the early 1990s, Dr. Das made headlines as the first physician in the Northeast (and one of the first in the country) to perform sacral neuro modulation, a minimally invasive treatment for urinary incontinence, or overactive bladder, when medication and bladder retraining aren’t effective. At the time, it was groundbreaking, and today the treatment is employed at hospitals across the country, including SIUH.

“Sacral neuro modulation is a way to affect the nerves that are connected to the bladder,” explained Dr. Das. “We go into the lower back and stimulate nerves that lead to the bladder to change the way the bladder is working.”

Cellini Spread

At SIUH, Dr. Das joins one of the busiest urology programs by patient volume in Northwell Health’s vast network. The team consists of Dr. Das at the helm joined by two general urologists, a urological oncologist, a robotic surgeon, a sexual dysfunction specialist, and a stone and infertility specialist, plus a nurse practitioner and three physician assistants. Together the team offers multidisciplinary care across the entire spectrum of urology, including urinary infections, incontinence, enlarged prostate, stones (kidney and bladder), infertility, cancers of the bladder, kidneys, prostate, and testes, and more. It’s a cohesive partnership, noted the doctor.

“We have a great group of doctors here,” said Dr. Das. “We have all the major subspecialties covered. We are all in the same office space, so there’s constant collaboration. Because we are so busy, there’s no competition. We always send the patient to the best person, and that works great in this environment.”

One of the doctor’s primary goals for the department’s expansion is to set up two major centers of excellence: one dedicated solely to stone disease, and the other focusing on functional urology.

“We will focus on a whole set of issues to help people function better,” Dr. Das said of the latter. “Some conditions aren’t fixable, like MS or Parkinson’s, and many of these patients suffer from urological problems because of these diseases. At this center, we’ll help with leakage, provide hormone replacement for men who lack adequate testosterone, and much more.”

SIUH has long been an incubator of innovation and offers several cutting-edge minimally invasive treatments, including many laser and robotic-assisted procedures, and Dr. Das is in the process of bringing more advances into the operating room. These devices and therapies include: video urodynamic testing, which combines cystometry, uroflowmetry, and X-ray cystography into a single test so physicians can get a better understanding of a patient’s bladder, leakage, or prostate issues; the lithotripter, a noninvasive device that pulverizes kidney stones from the outside through shock waves; a thulium laser to aid in prostatic procedures; and Aquablation therapy, a robotic-assisted procedure for patients with BPH that uses heat-free waterjet technology to remove prostate tissue. The hospital will be the first on the island to offer this last technology, noted Dr. Das.

The doctor also plans to launch a clinical research program over the next year to vet and test new technologies. “We want to be at the forefront of what’s new and leading edge, but also make sure that every technology we employ is safe,” he added.

Descending from a long line of medical professionals, Dr. Das knew at a young age he would pursue a career in medicine, though early in his studies he believed he would go the cardiology route. Strong mentorship at Northwestern University, where he received both his BS and MD degrees, in uenced the young doctor’s interest in urology. He then completed his six-year residency in surgery and urologic surgery specialty at Duke University Medical Center before serving active duty as a Major in the US Air Force and as Chief of Urology at Kirtland AFB in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He was the only Air Force urologist in the entire state.

After his military service was complete, Dr. Das was appointed as an Associate Professor of Surgery (Urology) at Albany Medical College before moving to Boston with his wife and three kids to lead the Center for Neuro-urology and Continence at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, where he remained until joining SIUH last September. For the Brooklyn and Long Island-bred physician, it was a homecoming.

“Joining SIUH was exciting for two reasons,” added the doctor. “It was a chance to come back to this area. I grew up in Brooklyn and then went to high school in Syosset, Long Island, and my parents still live in that same house. The other reason is I was so impressed with Dr. Ardolic’s vision [Brahim Ardolic, MD, SIUH’s executive director]. With his support I knew I could improve upon an already tremendous urology program. The patient care that the nurses and physicians provide is phenomenal, and we hope to bring Staten Island to another level.”

Northwell Health Physician Partners Smith Institute for Urology at Staten Island
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