Jefferson Surgical Solutions


The Jefferson Thoracic & Esophageal Surgery Program offers a full range of services with an emphasis on robotic procedures (90% of cases) – increasing the likelihood of a shorter hospital stay and a faster overall recovery. Led by Nathaniel R. Evans III, MD, the Program is comprised of surgeons Scott W. Cowan, MD, Tyler R. Grenda, MD, MS, and Olugbenga T. Okusanya, MD, as well as nurse practitioner, Sung E. Whang, DNP, CRNP.

Robotic approaches can be especially beneficial for lung cancer patients. When performing lobectomies and segmentectomies with this technology, surgeons are able to spare more healthy lung tissue.

“These techniques provide patients optimal breathing function after surgery,” Dr. Evans explains. The team also uses robotic methods to treat esophageal cancer and hiatal hernias, including very large hernias of the stomach into the chest.

The Program is part of an enterprise multidisciplinary group, which includes gastroenterologists and general surgeons and looks at all types of complex esophageal cancer, as well as benign esophageal diseases and conditions, such as reflux and hiatal hernias.

Dr. Evans notes that one of the Program’s strengths is the diversity of its team’s education and experience. Having been trained at institutions from coast to coast, these surgeons bring perspectives from some of the largest thoracic surgery programs in the country. For example, Dr. Grenda is an expert in revision foregut surgery – that is, correcting previously treated hernias that recur a second or third time. In addition, Dr. Okusanya came to Jefferson from the nation’s leading Minimally Invasive Esophagectomy program and is also initiating a program focused on Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. Common among athletes, this condition may develop when the muscles at the top of the chest become so enlarged that they pinch the nerves, arteries and veins coming out of the chest.

Along with robotics, the Program has also been an early adopter of telemedicine. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the team led the way in using virtual visits to engage with patients. In 2018, Dr. Whang received the JeffConnect Healthcare Delivery & Quality Transformation Award for facilitating 149 video visits with post-op patients over a 12-month period.

“Because of that early experience, it was easy for us to transition fully to telehealth visits earlier this year,” Dr. Evans says, adding that the program completed 567 telehealth visits from mid-March to mid-December. Dr. Grenda reported that experience in the August 2020 issue of the Annals of Surgery. “

There were multiple patients that we ‘met’ via video visit to review the plan and the imaging studies that needed to be done prior to their surgery. We wouldn’t physically meet them until the day of the surgery.”

One such patient first presented in the Emergency Department with COVID-19. Only through that diagnosis was she found to have lung cancer. After a virtual visit with Dr. Evans, she was scheduled for a robotic right upper lobectomy – a procedure that successfully removed the cancerous tissue and confirmed she had stage IIB disease. She spent just one night in the hospital and following an uncomplicated recovery, she was treated with adjuvant therapy.

To schedule an appointment with a thoracic surgeon or refer a patient, please call 215-955-5562.