A Q&A with Michael S Patriarco, DO
Dr. Patriarco provides gynecological care with a focus on patients suffering from gynecological issues like abnormal uterine bleeding, endometriosis, pelvic pain, infertility, urinary incontinence and fibroids. In many cases, these patients find relief and renewed quality of life thanks to the minimally invasive techniques practiced by Dr. Patriarco and his team.
Originally from Syracuse, New York, Dr. Patriarco attended Albany State University, medical school at Des Moines Medical School and his residency at Lehigh Valley Health Network.
SL: Did you always want to be a doctor?
Dr. Patriarco: No, I initially wanted to be a professional baseball player, but when I realized that was NOT going to happen, my second desire was to become a physician.
SL: Did you have a role model or major influence who guided you on your career path?
Dr. Patriarco: Initially, in medical school, I wanted to be a primary care physician, then a urologist, then a pediatrician. I ultimately decided to enter into a OB/GYN residency because of my mentor, Dr. Zelnick, who was a major influence on my decision. His passion for the specialty, not only the obstetrical portion of the specialty, but also the surgical aspect, is really what motivated me to pursue OB/GYN.
SL: What part of your job do you find most rewarding?
Dr. Patriarco: The most rewarding aspect of obstetrics is definitely helping families to grow. But I also like the surgical/medical aspects of gynecology, which, in my opinion, is unlike any other specialty. It makes me happy when a patient comes in after a previous doctor says that a large incision is necessary for a hysterectomy to get relief from fibroids, and I can tell her that no, it can be done with a minimally invasive procedure. Of course, as with any career, there are negative aspects of the specialty, but overall, the specialty is extremely rewarding.
SL: What conditions do you treat?
Dr. Patriarco: I treat everything from routine gynecologic care, abnormal uterine bleeding, chronic pelvic pain, endometriosis, fibroids and if surgery is needed, advanced minimally invasive gynecologic procedures. A large portion of my patients are suffering from pain and bleeding as a result of fibroids. In fact, 60 percent of all women have fibroid uteri. Most women don’t realize the many options they have to treat them. Years ago, we started, and continue to manage, a fibroid referral center in conjunction with interventional radiology, so we can give patients all available options for treatment. If it comes down to surgery, the goal is to do the surgery in the least invasive means possible, which means minimally invasive surgery, laparoscopic or hysteroscopic. In addition to the multidisciplinary fibroid referral center, we now offer a chronic pelvic pain/ endometriosis center, which helps many patients suffering from these types of conditions.
SL: Can you describe some of the advances St. Luke’s is making in minimally invasive surgery?
Dr. Patriarco: Over the past 15-20 years, I have continued to develop my surgical skills, moving from open surgical procedures, to minimally invasive surgery. I am fortunate, that within the St. Luke’s Network, we have further fostered the development of minimally invasive gynecologic surgery. Being the Director of Minimally Invasive Gyn Surgery for the past 13 years, along with support of the Network, including our Chairman, Israel Zighelboim, M.D., our Chief of Gynecology, Vincent Lucente, M.D., we have developed a premier institute for gynecologic services, not only in the Lehigh Valley, but within the state/nation. In fact, at St. Luke’s, hysterectomies are done via a minimally invasive route (laparoscopic or vaginally) 86 percent of the time, whereas, nationwide this rate is only about 50-60 percent.
The St. Luke’s Network has also started a Fellowship in Minimally Invasive Gyn surgery, 1 of only 32 in the country. Along with our residency in OB/GYN, and now the Fellowship, we are educating and training highly qualified physicians to provide the best obstetric and gynecologic care for women.
SL: Why is minimally invasive surgery preferable?
Dr. Patriarco: There are a number of reasons, but mainly better recovery time, return to work quicker, return to normal lifestyle faster and cosmetically. Any woman who is told that she has to have a hysterectomy through a large incision, should definitely seek a second opinion.
SL: Why do you like working for St. Luke’s?
Dr. Patriarco: There are a number of reasons, but most notably, I like the collegial atmosphere, administrative support, the focus on fostering individual development, the continued growth of the Network, and the leadership’s appreciation of the health care provider’s input. Any woman seeking obstetric or gynecological services can be assured that she will receive the best, individual care from highly skilled practitioners.
Dr. Michael Patriarco is a physician with St. Luke's Center for Advanced Gynecologic Care, Director of Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery and Co-director of the Fellowship in Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery (FMIGS).