Excellence at Every Turn

Frank's Robotic Surgery Story

Frank Dennis said he believes that we should leave this world a little better than we found it.



“I’ve got a lot of work to do,” Frank said. He approaches everything in his life with a big smile and a “let’s get it done” attitude. “Everybody should take that attitude,” Frank said. “You've got to put the work in.”

Frank and his wife, Rose, moved north to Island County from the eastside of Seattle. “I wanted to escape the rat race a little bit and found a really nice place on Camano Island, moved in there and haven't looked back,” Frank said. “It's a wonderful place to live.”

His journey to the quiet of the island has been long and full of success. After his service in the Navy, Frank went to law school, landed a job at a well-respected law firm and became a partner before he was 30.

Frank Dennis in his living roomFrank has been practicing law for 40-plus years, working in international finance, energy, water and construction across the globe, including Antarctica. He describes himself as sophisticated, well-traveled, and philanthropic. No matter where he lives in the world, Frank expects the best.

“I have an interesting life; I wouldn't trade it for anything,” Frank said. “I have been so lucky in my life, it’s like getting hit with the good lighting six times,” he joked. 

Though he has been fortunate in his life, it has not always been easy. In 2018, Frank began his journey with Skagit Regional Health. “I felt nauseous for about a month,” Frank said. “So, I decided I'd go get my scope [colonoscopy] three years early, and by God, there it was.” The procedure revealed early stage colon cancer.

After learning his diagnosis, his peers and colleagues encouraged him to travel south to Seattle instead of having surgery at Skagit Regional Health. Frank had already done the research into his treatment options. His plan needed to start with finding a great surgeon and so his search began.

During Frank’s time in the Navy, he served as an operating technician with four years of Operating Room (OR) experience. “I've done, maybe 200 or 300 bowel resections as part of a team, as an OR tech, during the Vietnam era,” Frank said.

Frank says he knows what great health care looks like and that’s what he expects. “I expect excellence at every turn,” he said. “I wouldn't accept anything else, because excellence is out there.”

When Frank came to Skagit Regional Health to meet with his potential surgeons, he did his homework and was prepared to discuss the advances in robotics and surgical procedures.

“I read up on da Vinci, and I read up on this model, because there were various models. [Dr. Joel Dean] had two years of experience [on the da Vinci], and then he had six months training on this model,” Frank explained. “Dr. Dean had done 20 [procedures] before me. I was absolutely confident that I would get the best medicine available.”

Dr. Dean is a fellowship trained Colorectal Surgeon who is part of the Skagit Regional Health team of general surgeons.

At first, Frank explained, he had some concerns about robotics surgery. “But I got over that pretty quickly by reading up on it. You can dig around and find success rates,” Frank said. Impressed by his experience with Dr. Dean and the information he learned about the da Vinci, Frank was ready for surgery. “After balancing it out, seeing the machine itself, talking to Dr. Dean,” Frank said. “I was absolutely satisfied that I was going to get excellent medical treatment there, as good as anywhere in the world. And I believe I did.”

Frank Dennis on a computerFrank was reassured by Dr. Dean’s confidence in using the da Vinci Xi. “He wanted to do that operation,” Frank said. “It's like going for a lawyer. You want a lawyer who wants your case, because he wants it, you know? And I thought, ’Yeah, OK.’ Everything on the balance, there was just no question in my mind.”

The procedure verified Frank’s decision to remain at Skagit Regional Health. “I've had major surgery before, I know what pain is,” he said. “I deal with it pretty well. This hardly hurt at all.”

Frank’s recovery was successful and faster than he expected. “The machine diminishes that trauma, hugely.” Frank explained. “I didn't have a recovery time. I was fine, I walked out of there fine. The pain was so minimal.”

“Skagit Regional Health was a very pleasant surprise,” said Frank. “It wasn't like I thought it was going to be at all. It's a modern facility with first-class medicine.” Frank maintained he would accept nothing less. “I was treated like a celebrity the whole time.”

Frank is cancer free and still working. “They got it all, and I needed no radiation or chemotherapy,” he said. “I got lucky.”