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Benjamin M. Whittam, MS, MD
Assistant Professor of Urology
Dr. Whittam is an Assistant Professor of Urology at Indiana University School of Medicine and is Director of Robotic Surgery at Riley Hospital for Children. He received his MD from Dartmouth Medical School and completed his urology residency at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. He subsequently completed his pediatric urology fellowship at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health. His clinical interests include minimally invasive and robotic-assisted surgery, and sacral neuromodulation for refractory voiding dysfunction. His research interests include comparative effectiveness research of open versus robotic assisted surgery.
Divison of Pediatric Urology 705 Riley Hospital Drive, Suite 4230
Indianapolis, IN 46202
I have taken the initiative coupled with the Pediatric and Adolescent Comparative Effective Research (PACER) to compare robotic and open pediatric surgery. I was awarded a NIH R21 grant in 2015 titled: Randomized Robotic-Assisted versus Open surgery: Benefits and Patient Centered Outcomes Trial (Randomized ROBOT) to perform a feasibility trial and identify patient centered outcomes. A secondary focus is to determine possible approaches to improve patient enrollment into randomized controlled trials, particularly in the pediatric population. My future research plan is to apply for a R01 grant comparing robotic versus open pediatric pyeloplasty, to hope to determine at what age robotic surgery should be offered in the pediatric population. Furthermore, to extrapolate this research design to other common pediatric urology procedures, such robotic versus open ureteral reimplantation.
As director of pediatric urology robotic surgery, I am responsible for the education of IU urology residents and fellows with respect to pediatric robotic surgery. During intraoperative instruction, I became interested in robotic suture manipulation and if it had correlation with robotic surgery proficiency. I subsequently submitted and was awarded an industry sponsored grant to determine if suture manipulation could be correlated with robotic surgery proficiency. This grant is ongoing but clearly demonstrates that robotic naïve urologic trainees damaged suture significantly more then robotic surgical experts. This research project as it evolves should provide an objective measure to assess robotic proficiency, which may be included in surgeon assessment prior to being granted robotic surgery privileges.
The sacral neuromodulation procedure has provided tremendous impact on patient and family quality of life; future directions include randomization to sacral neuromodulation versus tethered cord release as well as further expansion into new clinical realms. Current research avenues include quality of life assessment and creating protocols to reduce neuromodulator use and provide a route for cure. This specialized clinic has also fostered other avenues of research in the field of voiding dysfunction. I am currently running two exciting research projects: (1) scheduled awaking for refractory nocturnal enuresis and (2) assessment of voiding dysfunction clinical utilities. Both of these projects are gathering preliminary data and have potential for grant funding.