Advancing Women’s Health: Minimally Invasive Surgery

Over the course of his 31 year career in obstetrics and gynecology, Dr. Michael Patriarco has been developing and refining his skills in minimally invasive surgery. He performed the first non-invasive, laparoscopic hysterectomy in the Lehigh Valley, and with the support of St. Luke’s University Health Network executive leadership team, Dr. Patriarco has been advancing the use of minimally invasive surgical techniques. As a result of the organization’s expertise, technology, protocols, and quality of outcomes, the St. Luke’s Allentown Campus, along with Dr. Patriarco and his colleagues Dr. Tirun Gopal, Dr. David Hanes, and Dr. Sheldon Linn, was recently designated as an AAGL Center of Excellence in Minimally Invasive GynecologyTM. The designation recognizes that St. Luke’s Allentown and these surgeons demonstrate an unparalleled commitment and ability to consistently deliver safe, effective,
evidence-based care.

“With advances in technology, most benign gynecological surgeries including many reproductive and reconstructive procedures can be done using minimally invasive techniques. There are very few exceptions that require the traditional approach,” explains Dr. Patriarco, who serves as the Director of Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery and is certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology. In contrast to traditional surgeries which require significant incisions and lengthy recovery times, minimally invasive approaches entail minor or no incisions. For example, laparoscopy utilizes a small tube that is inserted through a tiny incision in the skin in comparison to the traditional laparotomy, which involves a large incision through the abdominal wall. Minimally invasive surgery is often an outpatient procedure and typically results in a faster return to normal activity, less scarring, decreased postoperative pain, and reduced risk of infection.

St. Luke’s has remained ahead of the curve in adopting minimally invasive techniques. The health network was the first in the area to perform robotic-assisted gynecologic surgery and maintains strict protocols, quality assurance meetings, and committee-based reviews. While over 60% of hysterectomies in the United States are done through major, abdominal incisions, St. Luke’s performs over 80% of such procedures using minimally invasive techniques. Additional procedures that are performed minimally-invasively at St. Luke’s include removal of fibroid tumors, uterine prolapse repair, uterine cancer surgery, and incontinence repair, as well as investigative procedures related to infertility. “Women who cannot run to cross the street for fear of bladder leakage, who suffer severe cramps, pelvic pain, or abnormal bleeding need to know that minimally-invasive options are available to correct those conditions that detract from living well,” says Dr. Linn.

In recognition of their achievements and delivery of superior patient care, Dr. Patriarco, Dr. Gopal, Dr. Hanes, and Dr. Linn, as well as the St. Luke’s Allentown Campus, were awarded the AAGL Center of Excellence in Minimally Invasive GynecologyTM designation (COEMIG). The COEMIG program was designed to “help accelerate the adoption of minimally invasive gynecology and ensure that women are aware of their surgical treatment options and the benefits of less invasive approaches,” according to the AAGL, an organization focused on advancing the safest and most efficacious diagnostic and therapeutic techniques that provide less invasive treatments for gynecologic conditions through integration of clinical practice, research, innovation, and dialogue. The COEMIG designation allows patients to distinguish specific providers who have met the requirements for delivering high-quality care from those who have not. Earning the designation signifies an ability to consistently deliver the safest, highest-quality care and to meet clinical benchmarks
and guidelines.

The St. Luke’s facility and surgeons underwent a rigorous assessment process including analysis of surgical techniques, pre- and postoperative processes, protocols for complications, technology, and staff training. In addition, detailed data on surgical outcomes and the Allentown Campus site were evaluated against strict objective requirements. “It’s incredibly rewarding to receive this designation. It serves as reinforcement that our facility and our surgeons are doing this the right way and that we are indeed a center of excellence,” says Dr. Patriarco. But more importantly, he emphasizes that the COEMIG designation is really about raising awareness and improving the health and well-being of patients. “If any woman is told she needs to do a procedure through a major abdominal incision, she needs to recognize there are other options to be considered. Patients benefit from knowing that COEMIG-designated physicians are keenly aware that women want and need to return to a full and active life as soon as possible after surgery,” Dr. Patriarco explains. “In fact, women delay having many surgeries that will improve their quality of life because they believe there may be a long, painful recovery away from work, daily activities, and taking care of family. This does not have to be the case.”

AAGL Center of Excellence in Minimally Invasive GynecologyTM,
COEMIGTM, and the COEMIG seal are trademarks of the AAGL.
All rights reserved.


In an effort to fulfill its mission of advancing minimally invasive gynecology worldwide, the AAGL partnered with Surgical Review Corporation to develop the Center of Excellence in Minimally Invasive GynecologyTM program. The program, which focuses on improving the safety and quality of patient care, is designed to expand awareness of and access to minimally invasive procedures performed by surgeons and facilities that have demonstrated excellence in these advanced techniques.


The AAGL vision is to serve women by advancing the safest and most efficacious diagnostic and therapeutic techniques that provide less invasive treatments for gynecologic conditions through integration of clinical practice, research, innovation, and dialogue. Founded in 1971, the organization has educated the world’s finest surgeons while improving the lives of women everywhere. This global commitment to women’s health care is embodied in their continuing medical education of physicians and professionals to further promote the well-documented high standard of minimally invasive gynecologic surgery.

Surgical Review Corporation

Surgical Review Corporation (SRC) is an independent, nonprofit organization governed by industry stakeholders and dedicated to advancing the safety, efficacy, and efficiency of surgical care worldwide. SRC has emerged as a leading administrator of center of excellence programs for surgical specialties. The organization manages programs on behalf of top medical societies around the world, setting a global standard of excellence.

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