Profile - Dr. Jonah Marshall
Even as a boy, Dr. Jonah Marshall remembers, "I was very interested in learning about diseases." In part, the inspiration was his father, a family practice physician in Troy, New York. But it was his mom, too. "She was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was very young," he explains. "So I've always been very interested in treating cancer."
Today Dr. Marshall performs robotic surgeries, a specialty he brought to Berkshire Health Systems. During his training as a urologist at the University of Rochester he performed hundreds of procedures utilizing the da Vinci surgical system. "It's a shift from maximally invasive open surgery to minimally invasive laparoscopic and endoscopic surgery," he explains.
Robotic procedures for prostate, kidney, and similar surgeries involve the insertion of instruments into the patient's abdomen through small surgical incisions. Tiny cameras transmit a stereoscopic image to a console, where the picture is magnified, and the surgeon employs surgical instruments robotically. The surgeon's movements are scaled down - a one-inch movement of the doctor's hand on a joy stick control will shift an instrument only a fraction of an inch - meaning the robotic surgical system allows for very precise procedures, thereby preserving nearby blood vessels and nerves while removing cancerous tissues. In certain urological procedures, this can also mean speedier return of urinary control and the preservation of erectile function.
For Dr. Marshall, robotic surgery brings together some of the skills he honed as a committed athlete, as well as his familiarity with cutting-edge technology. "I grew up playing computer games," he explains, "and robotics is an extension of that - but with lives on the line."
After earning his undergraduate degree in molecular biology at Princeton University, Marshall spent a year doing research in Zimbabwe prior to enrolling in medical school. The study concerned the effectiveness of anti-malarial drugs, but the experience exposed him to a culture unlike any he had known. "I was living in very rural communities, in tents, spending my days treating my patients in makeshift clinics, using a microscope powered by the sun, going from mud hut to mud hut - and trying to avoid the lions and elephants."
Today he resides in Williamstown with his wife and enjoys skiing, hiking, and fly-fishing - along with his two pre-school daughters.