“Decision Trumps Incision” for this Philadelphia Surgeon and PAMED Everyday Hero

Last Updated: Aug 28, 2018

Alexander-KutikovAlexander Kutikov, MD, FACS is the Chief of the Division of Urology and Urologic Oncology at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, Pa. He also serves as a professor in the Department of Surgical Oncology at Temple University’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine. Dr. Kutikov received the Pennsylvania Medical Society’s (PAMED) August 2018 Everyday Hero Award.

“Modern medicine is complex but, in the end, it’s still very human,” says Alexander Kutikov, MD, a surgical oncologist who specializes in the treatment of prostate, bladder, and kidney cancers at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia.

Dr. Kutikov is an expert in his chosen field of urologic oncology, including procedures like robotic surgery. He takes even more pride, though, in the human side of medicine and helping his patients through the difficult decision-making process that comes with a cancer diagnosis.

Compassionate care is at the heart of everything Dr. Kutikov and his team do at Fox Chase Cancer Center. “We try to stay true to the human aspect of it and communicate that we’re there for them,” he says. “That resonates with patients.”

One of Dr. Kutikov’s patients, pediatrician Gerard Margiotti, MD, nominated him for the award and describes him as a healer. “He is undeniably among the best, technically-proficient surgeons in his field: an excellent diagnostician, warm, caring, and compassionate,” says Dr. Margiotti. “Dr. Kutikov called personally several days in a row to check on my progress.”

 “Decision trumps incision” is one of Dr. Kutikov’s mantras. He emphasizes that the most important thing you can do as a surgeon is to make sure you’re making the right call. And, Dr. Kutikov explains, the right call often doesn’t include surgery at all. There are times when doing nothing is the best option.

For certain cancers, the best approach is simply to monitor patients, says Dr. Kutikov. “In my clinic, some of the most satisfying encounters we have involve convincing patients not to have surgery.”

While watching and waiting is often the best choice for patients, that strategy can be a stressful one. At Fox Chase Cancer Center, which is part of Temple Health, patients have access to innovative programs – including mindfulness courses and support groups – that help them manage the stress and emotional toll that a cancer diagnosis can take.

Dr. Kutikov’s path toward a life in medicine and caring for patients with cancer began in St. Petersburg, Russia, where he was born and lived during his early childhood years. At age 11, he moved to the United States with his family and continued his education there.

When he began his time as a student at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Kutikov hadn’t yet decided upon a specialty. Sage advice from his now-wife Jessica Kutikov, MD, a pediatrician, as well as encouragement from physician mentors ultimately convinced him that a surgical specialty was the right fit for him.

“Surgeons hate to retire,” says Dr. Kutikov with a laugh. He explains that his field offers so much to those who practice it: the ability to establish long-term relationships with patients, multi-faceted experiences and opportunities, and a meaningful vocation.

A typical week for Dr. Kutikov is busy and full of variety. Each week includes two to three days of surgeries, at least one day for biopsies and scopes, and time spent on administrative tasks connected to his role as Chief of Fox Chase Cancer Center’s Division of Urology and Urologic Oncology. 

Kutikov-presentationHe also helps to train urologic fellows. “It always keeps you fresh,” he says, noting that the residents and fellows he works with offer as much to him as he offers them. They often provide what he calls “a litmus test to help us make sure we’re making the right decisions.”

Staying on the cutting edge of his field is important to Dr. Kutikov. He has published some 200 publications and is active on the national academic scene. That involvement started in medical school when he and a fellow student started a website for urologic surgery. And, he’s been active on Twitter since the early days of that medium. He appreciates the “vibrant exchange of ideas” you can find on medical Twitter and how it allows physicians to follow key opinion leaders.

When asked how he manages the challenges of a rewarding but also demanding profession, Dr. Kutikov is quick to mention how fortunate he is to have an incredibly supportive family. “I owe a lot to my wife,” he says. And, he’s deeply grateful for his children – Bennett, Jonah, and Lilah. Without his wife and children in his life, he says, he couldn’t be the physician and the person he is today.

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