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Inside Pediatrics, Urology

New Chief of Urology Aims to Make Cutting-Edge Tech More Accessible to Alabama Families

Stacy Tanaka, MD, Chief of Pediatric Urology at Children’s of Alabama.

For pediatric urologist Stacy Tanaka, MD, it was an easy decision to accept the role of chief of pediatric urology at Children’s of Alabama. She already had relationships with several physicians here, including working on a spina bifida project with some of the pediatric neurosurgeons. 

She was also close with David Joseph, MD, who had been chief since 1986 but had decided to step down from the administrative role. “He’s so well respected in the pediatric urology community and urology community,” Tanaka said.

Coming to Children’s felt like a new but comfortable challenge. She started in January after 12 years at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital in Nashville.

Tanaka’s vision for the department is to ensure that the children of Alabama rarely have to leave the state for pediatric urology services. And that means bringing in more technology. “I don’t want families of kids who need our services to go elsewhere because they think we can’t provide it.”

One area is robotic surgery. Laparoscopic surgery has revolutionized the field, but it’s challenging. “When you’re doing conventional laparoscopy, it’s a little bit like putting a fork through one hole and a knife through the other and trying to cut your steak,” she said. “With the surgical robot, there is more freedom of movement, making it closer to using your hands,” she said. 

Currently, the Children’s team can access a surgical robot at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, but UAB is not a children’s hospital. So, with Dr. Tanaka’s arrival, Children’s will soon have its own robot.  Having robotic surgery at Children’s would help keep families here, Tanaka said. “Your care is going to be as good or better than anywhere else you go, and you don’t have to travel.”