Dr. Daniel Eun began developing some of the earliest robotic surgical techniques approximately 15 years ago while still in training. He hasn’t stopped since.
Today, Dr. Eun is an internationally renowned robotic surgeon, a sought-after thought leader, and Director of Minimally Invasive Urologic Oncology and Reconstructive Surgery at Temple University Hospital.
He continues to develop novel ways to use the surgical robot while offering his patients treatment options not available anywhere else in the country.
Q: You’re doing things with surgical robots that other surgeons haven’t even considered. What is your inspiration?
Dr. Eun: I have always been the type of person who likes to push the limits of what is possible — to come up with creative solutions for complex problems.
The surgical robot is a wonderful platform that has enabled me to creatively fix medical conditions that were once considered unfixable. It does this by allowing me to operate in very small spaces with far greater precision than can be achieved through traditional surgery.
Q: Is it safe to say that you’re inventing new procedures with the robot?
Dr. Eun: That’s true. We’re doing things today at Temple that few surgeons, until recently, have even thought of. For example, in 2013, we re-innovated an older, more morbid technique to remove exceptionally large prostate glands minimally invasively. This novel technique allows patients to go home the next day and avoid a large open incision.
For the first time in history, we were able to completely realign the urinary tract after removal of an enormous prostate gland, significantly decreasing postoperative bleeding and significantly decreasing the need for blood transfusions and hospital stay.
We’re also doing some of the highest volume and most complex ureteral reconstructive surgeries in the world with the robot. Specialized robotic techniques that are rare in the field of surgery are commonly being performed on a regular basis at Temple.
Q: How are you able to help patients who have been told surgery is not an option?
Dr. Eun: There are many patients who come to me with chronic conditions who have been told they cannot be helped by traditional surgery or they just have to live in pain for the rest of their lives. Patients with kidney blockage problems, for example, who are being managed with chronic tube changes and told that’s all that can be done.
At Temple, I see these types of patients regularly and can offer them innovative robotic techniques that can, in the vast majority of cases, permanently fix their problem. We can restore their health and return them to normal, fully functioning lives. What separates us from other centers is that our goal is to fix the problem, not manage it.
Q: You’re well known for your surgical creativity. How does that dovetail with your use of the robot?
Dr. Eun: What goes through my mind when faced with a problem is probably different than what goes through the mind of most surgeons. I have a “robot-first” mentality. By that I mean I first think about how I can use the robot to help patients who have been told that traditional surgery is not an option.
Instead of automatically declaring something impossible, I think about how to make it possible using the robot. I guess I am the eternal optimist. I always find myself saying “If you have the will, there is almost always a way.”
Q: How has your use of the surgical robot put Temple on the map?
Dr. Eun: I would say that we have really established Temple as one of the premier reconstruction centers in the world. We've done more advanced robotic reconstructive procedures in urology than any other center out there.
I can unequivocally say that the robot is a tool that we use on a regular basis to do surgeries that other surgeons typically balk at or don’t want to do. And we can do it better than an open approach, causing a lot less tissue trauma and giving patients a routinely faster recovery than any other approach that's out there.
Read Katie’s story about robotic surgery to treat her husband's prostate cancer
Read about prostate cancer patient Tom and his story about robotic surgery
Robotic Surgery — Frequently asked questions