Dr. William Yi is a man of many interests. He explored a number of vocational opportunities, including architecture and teaching the works of great writers as a college professor. However, a chance meeting with a physician during a volunteer engagement at a children’s hospital led him to discover his true calling as a surgeon.
The California native and graduate of Washington University in St. Louis and Vanderbilt University School of Medicine has found the perfect place to build a practice and care for patients the way he dreamed he could at TriStar Southern Hills Medical Center.
Dr. Yi shares his vision for delivering quality patient care and details the kind of environment where he believes patients thrive, and how he found exactly that at the growing, state-of-the-art Southern Hills Medical Center. Welcome our newest FACE of TriStar!
What attracted you to medicine and in particular, general surgery?
I originally planned to be a pediatrician because my mentor was a pediatrician and I thought, that’s the person I want to be when I grow up. In the end, I had to be true to my nature and I always loved working with my hands and fixing things. Surgery is the ultimate opportunity to do that. As a surgeon, the problems I am fixing, more often than not, alleviate pain and improve quality of life.
During your residency, you created a Surgical Boot Camp Program for incoming surgical interns. Can you tell us about that program, and why there was a need for it?
I have always been interested in education and the different ways in which individuals learn. When I got to residency, the teaching method in medicine involved assigning a mentor and then the medical interns following their mentor to learn tips and tricks. Otherwise, a medical student’s education was all book learning. There are so many tactile things that interns need to know that cannot be gleaned from a book.
For example, how to start an IV or manage an IV that is malfunctioning, or what steps you need to take to diagnose the problem when a patient is not producing enough urine output. Students can eventually learn those things by observation, but the boot camp was designed to teach some of that information programmatically rather than through observation alone. I helped to develop and lead that initiative.
What is evidence-based surgical care and why is that important to patients?
Evidence-based medicine is grounded in science and solid research and is about making use of the best available information to answer questions in a clinical practice. The concept is about making sure that when decisions are made they are based on the most up-to-date, solid, reliable, scientific evidence. In my practice, these decisions are about the care of individual patients and have a direct impact on those patients. It is important that I not only am able to understand the latest evidence-based approaches to a problem but that I can apply that information when making decisions and recommendations for individual patients. This means being able to integrate the evidence with the individual patient’s needs, their values, beliefs and wishes.
The best patient outcomes result from a partnership between the surgeon and patient. Communication and understanding are key to that partnership, so I take time to talk with my patients and really listen to understand their needs so that I can make the very best recommendations.
Tell us about your primary areas of specialty.
As a general surgeon, I provide surgical care for the whole patient. I make a diagnosis and manage the preoperative, operative and postoperative care of the patient; and perform surgical treatment of medical problems. It is important that I do that in the least invasive manner possible. Laparoscopic and robot-assisted procedures are minimally invasive and allow me to perform surgeries with small incisions, less blood loss and less post-operative discomfort.
My training and experience in minimally invasive procedures have afforded me the opportunity to help patients that have been told by other physicians they just have to live with their problem, that it cannot be fixed.
I frequently see patients who have painful, debilitating hernias that require complex abdominal wall reconstruction. In a typical hernia repair, the surgeon uses sutures or a mesh material to close the hole in the abdomen. If the hole (hernia) is too large for that standard procedure to work, I perform a procedure to release muscles of the abdomen and use the patient’s own tissue to repair the hernia.
I also perform bariatric surgery at Southern Hills. Again, the reward in those procedures is the patient outcomes. There is just no better feeling than seeing a patient’s quality of life and overall health improve because of a procedure I was able to perform with my two hands.
Southern Hills Medical Center has invested in robotic-assisted surgical devices that are significantly advancing the way we provide care and enhancing patient outcomes. I believe more and more procedures in the future will be performed using this technology as surgeons recognize the value and invest time in training and honing skills in the robotic techniques. The technology allows me to be far more precise in my surgical movements and opens the door to treating problems that are more complex in new ways.
What qualities do you possess that you feel make you a great doctor?
I am a life-long learner with an unwavering desire to be the best at everything I do. I want to push the boundaries on the stereotypical view that surgeons are mere technicians lacking in personality or bedside manner. I work very hard to build relationships with my patients and their loved ones, and to do that I have to really listen to them and understand their needs.
Southern Hills is the perfect environment for that approach to medicine. The hospital itself delivers amazing care and the staff and physicians work collaboratively. We treat one another like family and we treat our patients like family. That results in exceptional patient outcomes and an extraordinary patient experience. I look forward to going to work every day as a result.
When you are not working, where can we find you?
Even outside of medicine, you will find me working with my hands. I love to paint, to write and play recreational sports. I play in many sports recreation leagues, and particularly enjoy basketball. In fact, I recently played in a game against one of my patients who was on the opposing team and guarding me throughout the game. It was great to see him healed and doing the things he loves to do too.
Thank you to Dr. Yi for sharing your journey and encouraging growth and change in your field.