UNC Urology: Exceptional Care

In the recent U.S. News and World Report rankings of America’s Best Hospitals, UNC Hospitals was nationally ranked in five of the 16 specialties. In this series, we profile these specialties to learn more about what makes them so outstanding.

Raj Pruthi, MD, FACS (Photo by Max Englund/UNC Health Care)
Heather Schultz, RN, MSN (Photo by Max Englund/UNC Health Care)

By Matt Englund

2015 has been a good year for UNC Urology. In addition to ranking 49th nationally in the U.S. News and World Report listing of the nation’s top hospitals, the department was also listed among the top 20 urology residency programs in the country – 16th this year, up from 20th last year. Two urology doctors were listed on Newsweek’s list of the nation’s top cancer doctors, and seven were listed as Best Doctors in America.

In recent years, the program’s growth has been steady but significant, expanding the number of providers and the variety of available services, while building a national reputation for high-quality tertiary care. Raj Pruthi, MD, FACS, chair of the urology department, has been instrumental in this growth, which he says begins by deliberately cultivating the sense of community within the department.

“To create the right culture, you’ve got to bring the right people in and you’ve got to keep investing in them,” he says. “It’s not just pursuing growth for its own sake but growing in the right way.”

An important part of this investment has been transforming how the program is perceived by up-and-coming faculty. “We’re increasingly viewed as the kind of place where junior faculty members can grow their career,” says Dr. Pruthi. “We try to foster a nurturing environment, where young faculty can build their own academic reputation while working alongside urologists that are already nationally known.”

The program recently set up a faculty mentorship program that provides the opportunity for the department’s developing talent to evaluate their progress twice a year and ensure they are on track to meet their own career goals.

“Investing in people and their academic development not only helps us retain this great staff but elevates the quality of care we provide and allows us to expand our services. By cultivating our faculty, we have been able to grow the patient population we serve and the number of referrals we see,” says Dr. Pruthi.

As the number of patients served has increased, ensuring that they have access to the care they need has become a guiding principle for the department. By offering greater access to tertiary care, patients come from across the country and across the world to seek care at UNC.

UNC Urology offers everything from basic urologic care to the latest robotic surgical procedures, while UNC urologists are represented widely in national professional organizations. Three UNC urologists, including Dr. Pruthi, sit on the scientific advisory board of the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network. Appointments like these grow the department’s reputation, which in turn helps draws patients from across America and internationally from Great Britain, the Bahamas, Russia and Uzbekistan.

While building an international reputation, the department has also worked hard to ensure that it provides convenient access and quality care for local patients both across the Triangle and across the state.

To meet the growing demand for their services, the program has expanded its number of practice locations. “We used to only see patients in the second floor of UNC Hospitals. Now, we can also accommodate patients in the N.C. Cancer Hospital, the N.C. Children’s Hospital, Carolina Pointe, Hillsborough, Chatham, Pittsboro and more,” says Dr. Pruthi.  

As the program’s capacity has grown, it also has worked hard to ensure the quality of its care remains second to none.

“One of the preconceptions people often have coming to a large center like UNC is that state-of-the-art treatment is often delivered in an impersonal way,” says Dr. Pruthi. “But that doesn’t have to be the case. High-level technology and excellent bedside manner are not mutually exclusive, and we strive to provide both.”

Dr. Pruthi and urology nurse practitioner Heather Schultz, RN, MSN, recently received the highest possible marks on the 2015 Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services-approved Clinician and Group Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CGCAHPS) survey. When patients were asked whether they would recommend their provider’s office to friends and family, 100 percent of Schultz and Dr. Pruthi’s patients responded “Yes, Definitely!”

In addition to high patient satisfaction ratings and a comprehensive clinical program, urology is building a clinical research program to find new ways to improve patient outcomes.

“UNC has one of the best public health schools in the country,” says Dr. Pruthi. “We want to utilize their strength in looking at our outcomes and how we can improve them. We have a number of faculty members who investigate health outcomes and potential disparities and the ways to deliver the highest quality of care to all populations.”

Whether it is improving patient outcomes through clinical research, investing in faculty or improving access to care by providing a wider range of services at more locations, UNC Urology is always looking for opportunities to grow in the right way.

The exceptional growth at UNC Urology makes it the kind of department where nationally and internationally renowned experts provides patients with the full scope of urologic care, in a way that offers both the latest in tertiary services and the best in individualized care.

To learn more about UNC Urology, visit their website at https://www.med.unc.edu/urology.


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