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Mayo-trained Price slices into new surgical niche at Penrose

Tue, Sep 24, 2013

One on One

Theolyn_PriceDr. Theolyn Price is a board-certified general thoracic surgeon at Penrose Hospital, specializing in the treatment of lung disorders. She was trained at the Mayo Clinic in general thoracic surgery, and thoracic and cardiovascular surgery. The 39-year-old has a special focus on thoracic oncology and robotic procedures. Price recently performed the first robotic-assisted lobectomy in Colorado., the procedure to remove a lobe of the lung.

 What inspired you to become a surgeon?

I’ve known since I was 8 years old that I was placed on this earth to make a difference through the gift of healing. An event at 15 reaffirmed this decision. A neighborhood boy was seriously injured in a life-threatening, accidental home shooting. Our family happened upon the scene and rushed him to the hospital. It was in this moment, as we were caring for his needs while transporting him to the nearest ER, that I realized my calling was to pursue a surgical career. He was eventually flown to a trauma center where his life was saved, and they were able to amazingly reconstruct his face. I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life being a part of this miracle – the miracle of changing lives and healing.

What do you love about your profession?

I love the intimate and personal relationship that can develop between a patient and the physician, as well as the ability to transform or enhance a patient’s life. Patients and their families come to me at moments of vulnerability. It is my privilege to plan a course of treatment that will hopefully bring healing that will impact the quality and quantity of their life. It is an honor to have the opportunity to make such a difference. The most rewarding part is the lifelong relationships that are formed during the long-term follow-up that is necessary after a cancer diagnosis.

You’ve had eight surgeries — how does that help you connect with your patients?

Not only have I had eight surgeries myself, but I have also been by my mother’s side during her diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer. As difficult as these times were, I truly believe I am a better person and a better surgeon for what I have endured. This enables me to be able to connect with my patients in a way that many surgeons cannot. I understand the full spectrum of emotions that a patient experiences and the challenges they face during the work-up, hospitalization, and recovery.

I also understand the heartbreak that family members feel when their loved one has just been diagnosed with cancer. I am able to not only sympathize with my patients, but I am able to empathize, which develops a very special bond.

You’re among a small group of robotic thoracic surgeons. Tell us how rare your specialty is in Colorado? What are the benefits of robotic surgery?

I was fortunate to have robotic training during my residency at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and I continued building on that experience while I was on staff at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center-Orlando in Florida. I come to Colorado as one of only four surgeons in the state performing robotic lobectomies. Our group, Cardiac & Thoracic Surgery Associates, is the only provider in southern Colorado.

Robotic lobectomies are very prevalent on the East Coast, but there are only 10 surgeons in the surrounding states (Wyoming, Nebraska, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Kansas) performing robotic lobectomies. We at Penrose Hospital are so excited to bring this technology to the community of Colorado Springs. It provides the same traditional surgery through the most minimally invasive approach. Robotic procedures are performed with less blood loss, less pain, shorter hospital stays, quicker recovery and an earlier return to work.

How do you incorporate your faith into your work?

Being in medicine is very humbling. Despite all the technological advances that are available to us today, there are just some things that are still out of our control. You realize very quickly there is a higher power. My faith is very important to me both in and out of the hospital. I never walk into the operating room without praying for God to give me wisdom, and for Him to guide my hands. I always pray for my patients, and if they wish, I pray with them. This creates a very special bond between surgeon and patient that I feel brings a sense of peace and comfort. You never know when you may be part of a miracle, because they are happening all around us.

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