Winter 2013 Mall Operations

Mall operations take on a new meaning as hospitals show off a new robotic system in center court.

When St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown, NY, wanted to get the word out about its minimally invasive surgeries, it went to the mall. A few hospital surgeons demonstrated the state-of-the-art robotic system at the nearby Walt Whitman Mall in Huntington, NY, and even allowed shoppers to try the controls.

Intuitive Surgical, the manufacturer of the da Vinci Robotic Surgical System, brought the robot to the mall for the event. The physicians educated customers about minimally invasive procedures and discussed their benefits—including less pain, fewer side effects and a shorter recovery period.

“We wanted to spread the word about the new surgery program at St. Catherine’s and give people the opportunity to ask questions with answers directly from physicians and the surgical team,” says Karla E. Mason, who works in public relations and external affairs for St. Catherine’s. This event has proven to be successful for many other hospitals in other locations.

Physicians from John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson, NY, with a couple of robots, spent two days at Smith Haven Mall in Lake Grove, NY, the previous year. “We went there to publicize Mather’s acquisition of the da Vinci system, the advantages it offered and the types of minimally invasive surgery for which it was being used,” says Stuart Vincent, director of public relations for the hospital. “The event was very successful, with many shoppers stopping by to try their hand at operating the da Vinci system.”

Mather promoted the event with posters that were displayed throughout the mall. “We also had a large overhead banner, four free-standing, life-sized posters of our doctors, nurses and other staff attached to a hand-sanitizer display, and some retractable banner stands in center court,” Vincent says. “We displayed brochures supplied by Intuitive Surgical about the different procedures being done at Mather, into which we placed stickers with the contact information for the surgeons performing the procedures.”

To further promote the event, Mather contacted local school robotics clubs and held a competition that involved using a virtual program to manipulate the robot to place a given number of rings on hooks. “The teams showed up with their T-shirts and cheering squads and created significant buzz on the first day, attracting more shoppers to stop by to see what was happening,” Vincent says. “All teams received scrub shirts with a Mather da Vinci logo on the pocket.”

St. Catherine’s also staged a contest to help create buzz about its event. School children were asked to help name the hospital’s robotic system, with the winner receiving a gift card and a photo-op with the robot.

Another hospital in the region, Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip, NY, held a similar event at the Westfield South Shore Mall in nearby Bay Shore, NY, in 2011. “Participants were able to operate the robot and experience the precision and control it has,” says Colleen Valdini, director of external and public affairs for the hospital. “It was very well-attended; we had more than 100 people stop by.”