Advanced Laparoscopic Surgeons, Florida Hospital Medical Group
CELEBRATION - Introduce yourself to James “Butch” Rosser, Jr., at three different times of the day, and you are likely to meet three different men.
Very early in the morning Rosser begins his “global life,” where he is “a futurist and technology assimilator,” he said. Then he starts his “clinical life” at Advanced Laparoscopic Surgeons at Florida Hospital’s Celebration Health, where he uses his skills as a general surgeon specializing in minimally invasive procedures. And at night you meet the man who places a very high priority on his family life.
The global life
Here, Rosser combines his work as an inventor and an author to satisfy his passion as an educator. He has lectured all over the world about remote control surgery, has written more than 50 peer-reviewed articles and 16 chapters in medical textbooks. He holds two patents and created the Rosser Top Gun Laparoscopic Skills and Nursing Program, which he called an “edutainment-based surgical educational module. More than 6,000 surgeons have taken the course since he created it in 1991, and it is in use in more than 50 institutions worldwide, he said.
Rosser is a video game enthusiast and that entertainment fascination allows him to meld that pastime with his scientific innovation. He authored Playin’ to Win: A Surgeon, Scientist and Parent Examines the Upside of Video Games, and has another book coming out in a few months, Saving the World: The Birth of Stealth Learning and the Digital Learning Revolution.
He also has developed a program called SteathSurgeon, which is described on his website as a “hip-hop National Spelling Bee meeting the ESPN X Games.” Rosser’s goal is to draw children into medicine and surgery. His work has been featured in numerous television documentaries.
Next up on Rosser’s global front: (1) Develop mobile telemedicine applications for underdeveloped countries; (2) convert the entire GED curriculum into a video game and “inspire others to change our outdated educational system,” he said.
“I love dreaming and I have no fear of executing,” Rosser said. “Failure does happen, but it does not define you. It only positions you to succeed.”
The clinical life
Rosser grew up in Jim Crowe’s backyard, the son of respected school teachers in Moorhead, Miss., where he was given the nickname Butch because he often helped his grandfather, an animal butcher. He attended the University of Florida and later the University of Mississippi while playing football in the slow-to-integrate Southeastern Conference. It was the first time he had ever been in a classroom with a white person, he said.
Rosser stayed at the University of Mississippi to complete his medical degree in 1980, and then went to Akron, Ohio for a five-year residency in general surgery. His curiosity about minimally invasive surgery emerged at that time, he said. Since then Rosser has held academic appointments at Yale University School of Medicine, the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, and served as professor of surgery at the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta.
Rosser arrived at Celebration in 2012, reuniting in practice with a colleague from his days at Yale, Jay Redan, MD. “This area means a lot to me,” said Rosser, who noted that he has been involved with the Orlando Science Center for 6 years. “I walk into the hospital and I’m smiling every day. My staff is like family and Jay is like a brother from another mother,” Rosser said. Florida Hospital leaders “give me the freedom to stretch my wings and bring some of my cutting-edge ideas into practice,” he said. “I want to work hard to earn the privilege of staying here and retiring,” said Rosser, 58.
Rosser said he is excited about “our big blockbuster initiative to fight gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and the fastest-growing cancer in the world, esophageal cancer. We are starting a new screening program with primary care physicians using space age technology and telemedicine. We also are creating a special heartburn center at Celebration that will give one-stop, cutting-edge care for this problem,” he said.
Rosser’s clinical work reaches far beyond central Florida. Since 1992 he has used telemedicine to provide remote care and education about minimally invasive surgery to patients in underprivileged countries, including Curacao and Jamaica, via a program called Modern Day Miracles.
The family life
Rosser has overcome challenges to get where he is today. When he was in Akron, for example, “I was a homeless single dad,” he said. “I had two kids that I was taking custody of and I had to save money, so I slept in my van for about 9 months. Those were tough times.”
But then he set his sights on a woman at church. Her name was Dana and even though he had performed surgery on her mother, it took him 6 months to work up the nerve to ask her to dinner, he said. “She wound up marrying us all,” Rosser said. The couple have been married 20 years and now they have five children, aged 17-38, and two grandchildren.
Rosser said he always has taken his kids wherever he travels. At night, he said, “I come home and I do not bring work so I can spend at least a couple of hours with them. I’m nothing without my family. They are all quality kids and good citizens. That’s a blessing that a lot of people don’t have.”
Rosser has overcome another huge personal challenge - morbid obesity. Today he carries 295 pounds on his 6-foot, 4-inch frame. But not too long ago he weighed about 465 pounds. “I was dying, but with the help of my wife and friends I made the decision to become a patient,” Rosser said. “A friend performed a laparoscopic gastric bypass. I lost 160 pounds.” Rosser even shared his story on The Dr. Oz Show.
When he is not multi-tasking his responsibilities as a physician and family man, you might meet a fourth Butch Rosser who indulges his fascination with video games, comic books and cinema (particularly futuristic action movies) and piloting unmanned drones. “I’m a terminal 12-year-old,” he laughed, “but that’s what helps me relate to people from 9 to 90. I’m a dreamer and I prefer to be happy.”