Baptist Health pioneers surgical robot innovation with benefits for patients

Surgeons performed the first case in the U.S. at Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville using the new surgical tool.

Jacksonville, FL.

Surgeons at Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville were the first in the United States to perform procedures with a new, sleek sidekick – the Maestro Surgical Robotics System.

The robot provides surgeons with an extra set of “hands” to help hold instruments and move tools with precision during laparoscopic surgeries. At Baptist Jacksonville, the tool is being used during gastric sleeve procedures, a common type of weight loss surgery.

The first procedure was performed using the first version of the new Robotics System. The case was completed by Steven Hodgett, MD, FACS, a bariatric surgeon with North Florida Surgeons PA, who practices at the hospital.

“Stability and control are of critical importance and innovative robotic technologies help us reach new levels of precision,” said Dr. Hodgett. “We’re fortunate to have had the opportunity to provide input on robotic surgical technologies being developed at the global level, which later translates to real-world surgical improvements for patients.”

Because of surgical expertise and technological advancements, like the new Robotics System, patients can undergo a sleeve gastrectomy using a minimally invasive approach, which helps reduce pain and recovery time. In fact, patients usually go home after an overnight stay in the hospital.

Receiving the sleeve

A unique coincidence, the first person to undergo a surgery with the assistance of the new robot was a Baptist Health team member.

“I’ve been working in the medical field for 30 years. To me, being the first at Baptist Health was an exciting, cool thing,” said Valerie Sawyer, 62, who works in outpatient coding in the Finance department. “I had complete trust in the bariatric surgical team.”

About 20 years ago, Sawyer had gastric band surgery to help with weight loss, which had been a life-long effort. Recently, the band slipped and was causing her extreme discomfort. Sawyer knew it was time for a change and a gastric sleeve was recommended. That’s when she found out about the minimally invasive approach with the new robotic system.

Surgery was a success and she is on the road to recovery!

“I’ve already lost about 30 pounds since the surgery. It’s helped with knee and back pain,” said Sawyer. “My biggest goal is trying to get in better health for my grandkids. I love spending time with them.”

Advancing robotic surgical approaches

Baptist Health is the region’s leader in robotic surgery, with 17 total surgical robots throughout the system. Each hospital within the Baptist Health system is equipped with at least one surgical robot. Surgical robots are used for a wide range of procedures and help increase a surgeon’s precision, while also leading to a faster recovery for patients.

“Ultimately, new technologies can play a pivotal role in enhancing a patient’s experience,” said Matthew A. Zuino, executive vice president and chief operations officer at Baptist Health. “Embracing cutting-edge innovations allows us to deliver a higher standard of care, ensuring our patients receive the best possible outcomes in their health care journey.”

To learn more about minimally invasive surgical options at Baptist Health, click here.

For nearly a decade, Baptist Health has been accredited by the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery for providing the highest level of care with outcomes that meet or exceed national standards. To learn more about weight-loss surgery at Baptist Health, visit

Read more of Valerie Sawyer’s story here.