Dr. Theolyn Price is the new Director of Robotic Thoracic Surgery for the WellStar Health System. She has been recruited to build a robotic thoracic surgery program at WellStar North Fulton Hospital. She is board certified in general surgery and thoracic surgery. Dr. Price specializes in the treatment of lung, esophageal and chest wall disorders, with a particular interest in thoracic oncology (cancer surgery of the chest) and robotic procedures. She did all her surgical training at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. She worked at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Orlando, Florida, before relocating to Colorado Springs, Colorado.
While there, she performed the first robotic-assisted lobectomy in southern Colorado and went on to build a robotic thoracic surgery program as the Clinical Director of Thoracic Surgical Oncology. She has been a pioneer in robotic thoracic surgery, having performed more robotic cases than any other thoracic surgeon in Colorado and was the leading female thoracic surgeon for robotic thoracic cases west of the Mississippi.
What inspired you to become a surgeon?
I’ve known since I was 8 years old that I was placed on this earth to make a difference through the gift of healing. An event at 15 reaffirmed this decision. A neighborhood boy was seriously injured in a life-threatening, accidental home shooting. It was in this moment, as we were caring for his needs while transporting him to the nearest ER, that I realized my calling was to pursue a surgical career. He was eventually flown to a trauma center where his life was saved, and they were able to amazingly reconstruct his face. I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life being a part of this miracle —the miracle of changing lives and healing.
What do you love about your profession?
I love the personal relationship that develops between a patient and physician, as well as the ability to transform or enhance a patient’s life. Patients and their families present at moments of vulnerability. It is my privilege to plan a course of treatment that will hopefully bring healing that will impact the quality and quantity of their life. It is an honor to have the opportunity to make such a difference. The most rewarding part is the lifelong relationships that are formed during the follow-up that is necessary after a cancer diagnosis, which is truly a gift.
You’ve had eight surgeries—how does that help you connect with your patients?
Not only have I had eight surgeries myself, but I have also been by my mother’s side during her diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer. As difficult as these times were, I truly believe I am a better person and a better surgeon for what I have endured. This enables me to connect with my patients in a way that many surgeons cannot. I understand the full spectrum of emotions that a patient experiences and the challenges they face during the work-up, hospitalization, and recovery. I also understand the heartbreak that family members feel when their loved one has just been diagnosed with cancer. I am able to not only sympathize with my patients, but I am able to empathize, which develops a very special bond.
You’re among a small group of robotic thoracic surgeons. What are the benefits of robotic surgery?
Robotic surgery provides the same traditional surgery through the most minimally invasive approach. Robotic procedures are performed with less blood loss, less pain, shorter hospital stays, quicker recovery and an earlier return to work. It results in tremendous patient satisfaction. WellStar Thoracic Surgery Associates has a robust thoracic surgery program and desires to incorporate this cutting edge minimally invasive technology into its armamentarium. We at WellStar are so excited to bring this technology to the North Atlanta communities at Cobb, Kennestone, and North Fulton Hospitals.
How do you incorporate your faith into your work?
Being in medicine is very humbling. Despite all the technological advancements available today, there are some things that are still out of our control. In the grand scheme of things, you realize how insignificant you are; therefore, my faith is very important to me. I never walk into the operating room without praying for wisdom. I always pray for my patients, and if they wish, I pray with them. This creates a very special bond between surgeon and patient that brings a sense of peace and comfort. You never know when you may be part of a miracle.
What are some of your other interests outside of your job?
Another important personal mission is to give back to the community. I was fortunate enough to serve on five philanthropic boards in Colorado Springs (Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Goodwill Foundation, Independent Bank of Colorado, Penrose-St. Francis Foundation, Colorado Springs Police Foundation), as well as, serving nationally on the Workforce for Patient Safety for six years through the Society of Thoracic Surgeons. It is an honor to come on board with the WellStar team and be a part of this community partnership. Living in Roswell and primarily working in Alpharetta and Marietta, I look forward to new opportunities to get involved locally and to get to know my new home.
What are you looking forward to at WellStar North Fulton?
It is very exciting to be a part of the WellStar family with a patient first, team centered approach, where we provide top notch, world class care that patients are able to receive from the comfort of their local community. In addition, I am now blessed to be within driving distance to my loving and supportive family. Among them is my grandmother for whom I am named, my grandfather who just reached the milestone of 100 years old, a niece and three nephews. Visiting home more often will be a gift of joy.
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Price, please call WellStar Thoracic Surgery Associates (770) 424-9732. ❍