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March 23, 2011 - Arlene Mitchell Gives $1.7 Million to USA Children's & Women's Hospital for Robotic Surgical System - Archived
MOBILE – University of South Alabama trustee and philanthropist Arlene Mitchell has given $1.7 million to USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital for a new daVinci robotic surgery system, which will enable the hospital to become the first in Alabama to perform pediatric surgery using the surgical robot.
The hospital is already using the newly acquired system for gynecologic procedures. The robot is part of the daVinci Si (pronounced ‘ess-eye’) Surgical System, which also includes a daVinci simulator to train USA’s physicians, medical residents and community physicians. USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital will be one of the first such hospitals in the nation to have the daVinci simulator.
“Arlene Mitchell and her family continue to touch the lives of countless citizens through their generous support of education, health care, and a wide range of community needs,” said USA President Gordon Moulton. “The University of South Alabama is grateful that Mrs. Mitchell’s gift of this robotic surgery system will better equip USA to enable women and children in the Gulf Coast area to live longer, healthier lives.”
“When I first saw a demonstration of the new robotic surgery machine, I was touched by how many children and women it would help in our community, whether for cancer treatment or other types of surgeries,” said Mrs. Arlene Mitchell. “I really feel good about this project, because I believe that when it comes to health care, the people of the Mobile area deserve the very best.”
“We are very excited to bring this ultimate state-of-the-art surgical technology to our patients,” Dr. Becky DeVillier, USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital administrator, said. “The fact that the daVinci Si Surgical System was provided to us as a gift from Arlene Mitchell is also extremely touching and inspiring.”
USA pediatric surgeon Dr. Daniel Beals, who has experience with previous daVinci models, is eager to bring this updated, minimally invasive option to children’s procedures at Children’s & Women’s. “The daVinci Si is tailor-made for movements in smaller spaces with delicate control,” Beals said. “It’s as if the surgeon’s hands are one-and-a-half inches long, so it’s ideal when your patient is much smaller than the typical adult.” The hospital will perform its first pediatric surgery with the daVinci Si later this spring.
USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital is already performing gynecologic procedures with the daVinci Si. The first surgery took place last month with Dr. Michael Finan, chief of gynecologic oncology services at the USA Mitchell Cancer Institute, at the controls. Finan has performed more than 350 daVinci surgeries in his career.
“It can’t be overstated how the daVinci has changed many complex surgeries for the better,” Finan said. “With the improved precision, dexterity and control of the daVinci Si here at Children’s & Women’s, the minimally invasive procedure is more attractive than ever for the patient and the surgeon.”
When appropriate for the patient, the minimally invasive procedure results in a far smaller incision and a faster recovery time. The daVinci Si has miniaturized instruments mounted on three separate robotic arms, with a fourth arm containing a high-definition 3-D camera to guide the surgeon through the procedure. The surgeon controls the arms simultaneously while seated at a nearby console, viewing a monitor that literally takes the surgeon inside the patient with a detailed, 3-D view sharper than the human eye.
The first daVinci patient at Children’s & Women’s was Rochelle Jerkins, a 29-year-old Point Clear resident who suffered from cervical complications. Treatment called for a complete hysterectomy, but she preferred a minimally invasive approach. Therefore, robotic surgery was recommended and took place Feb. 2.
“The next day I was up and around, walking the floor. Some people thought I was a visitor, not a patient,” Jerkins said. While full recovery from a conventional hysterectomy is often several months, Jerkins was able to return to work in just four weeks. “I can’t believe that I have just these five little incisions, and I can hardly even see them,” Jerkins said. “I’m very, very happy I did it.”
The gift is part of the “Campaign for USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital” that was launched this fall with a concurrent announcement of a $72 million major expansion of the hospital. With a goal of $10.6 million in private fundraising to enhance the hospital’s programs and services, the campaign has already netted $3 million in just over three months.
“The Mitchell family has a great love for the University of South Alabama and its health outreach,” Dr. Joseph F. Busta Jr., USA vice president for development and alumni relations, said. “We are humbled by her showing of generosity, and we have patients and physicians who likewise are filled with gratitude.”
Including previous support from Mrs. Mitchell, her late husband, Mayer, and his brother, Abraham, the Mitchell family has contributed $41 million to the University. This includes a gift of $22 million to support USA's cancer research institute, which is providing state-of-the-art care to people of the Gulf Coast region. USA's trustees named the Mitchell Cancer Institute in the family's honor in 2006.
The Mitchell family’s philanthropy reaches all aspects of the University of South Alabama campus. USA's Mitchell College of Business and Mitchell Center sports arena also bear the family name as testaments to their previous generosity.
USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital is among fewer than ten freestanding hospitals in the country dedicated specifically to the health care needs of children and women, offering Mobile’s only neonatal and pediatric intensive care units, pediatric oncology and sickle cell outpatient center and high-risk obstetrical care. With more than 2,800 births annually, USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital is the area’s leader in deliveries.
A major expansion that will nearly double the size of USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital is scheduled to be completed in 2013, recognizing the community’s validation of the hospital’s quality of care and the hospital’s opportunity to continue to meet the needs of a varied and growing population.
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For more information about USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital, please visit or call (251) 415-1000.

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