A Nicholas County native who honed his robotics operation skills in Huntington has returned to small-town living and is bringing his expertise to Plateau Medical Center.
Dr. Yancy Short, a general surgeon, will be performing traditional and robotic surgery at PMC, using the da Vinci Surgical System, which reduces patient recovery time and offers surgeons more dexterity and enhanced views of patient anatomy.
The son of a coal miner, Short was born and raised in Summersville. After graduating from Richwood High School, he completed his undergraduate and medical school studies at West Virginia University, then headed to Charleston Area Medical Center for his surgical training.
Short practiced in Summersville for nearly 22 years and served on the Nicholas County Commission. During his time in Summersville, Short said he made house calls to patients.
“That was a blast,” he said. “I loved making house calls. It lets you see what patients are about.”
Occasionally, he operated an old-fashioned system of billing.
“I went to check on this lady one time, and her daughter is like, ‘I want you to bill her insurance,’” Short recalled. “I said, ‘I’m not going to bill her insurance. Make me some cookies.’”
The physician noticed that the daughter looked terrified.
“I don’t know how to bake,” she told him.
Short said the woman later dropped a tin of store-bought cookies at his office for payment.
In February 2016, he went to St. Mary’s Hospital in Huntington, serving as co-director of the St. Mary’s Breast Center and working for the Huntington Internal Medicine Group, where he had access to advanced technology. He was sent to Atlanta, Ga., to train on the da Vinci Robotic Surgical System — the same high-tech surgical enhancement system that is offered at PMC.
The da Vinci system enables surgeons to perform operations through a few small incisions, rather than having to perform more invasive incisions.
It offers a magnified vision system, giving doctors a 3-D, high-definition view into the patient’s body.
A digitally controlled wrist instrument bends and rotates at “far greater” angles than the human hand, allowing the surgeon better access to the patient, according to the da Vinci developers.
Short felt a definite connection with robotic surgery.
“It was a kind of neat piece of equipment that I never had access to at Summersville,” he said. “I feel it’s cutting edge. It’s the wave of the future. It’s where general surgery is already headed to.
“That’s probably my passion — robotic surgery,” he added. “I really promoted the general use of it.”
Short built up the robotics surgery program at St. Mary’s Hospital, increasing robotic surgery among general surgeons at the hospital by 400 percent.
Dr. Paul Conley, a PMC physician, recruited Short to come to PMC as a general surgeon.
“I came and looked at the opportunity,” Short said. “We kind of feel like we’re coming home.
“I kind of missed the small town medicine,” he added. “In a large hospital, you’ve got so many specialties that you get pigeonholed into what you can do.”
At PMC, Short will incorporate his love of small-town medicine with his passion for robotics. He will perform general surgery, including skin lesions, endoscopy, breast surgery, vasectomies and others.
He’ll be working to revive the da Vinci robotic surgery at PMC, too.
“They’ve had the robot, and it has been used here,” he explained. “Currently, it’s not being used. I’m hoping to market that, and I think my results will speak for themselves.”
Short reassured patients that surgeons are fully engaged and performing the actual surgery with the da Vinci system. They are just given better mobility and vision during the operation, and the healing time for patients is typically much shorter than with traditional surgery.
“I’m not putting a quarter in and getting coffee,” he promised. “I’m controlling it. It’s like my hands are in there, and I’m controlling the arms.
“I can pick up things; I can hand-sew your bowel or your hernia from inside,” he explained. “You’re doing it without the incision, so it’s a lot less pain. It’s really cool.”
Short is married to Mia, an operating room nurse, and the couple have four children, ages 18 to 24. His daughter is at Marshall University, while his three sons are enrolled at WVU.
The surgeon is also a lieutenant colonel in the United States Air Force Air Guard, where he serves as chief of Aerospace Medicine, and has deployed to the desert.
During a Superstorm Sandy snowstorm in 2012, Short evacuated an elderly woman from her Craigsville home, where she had lost power. The woman, Maggie Selman, had been a “Rosie the Riveter,” working to build war planes in Akron, Ohio, during World War II.
Several years ago, Short diagnosed his own wife with breast cancer. Mia is now in remission, and breast surgery services remain a personal passion for Short.
“He’s a great dad and great husband,” Mia said.
Short said he and Mia will be living in Fayetteville during his practice at Plateau Medical Center.
“I miss the small-town medicine,” Short said. “I hope to get back to that by coming here.”