PEOPLE [Meet AMC Experts] Customized Treatment for Pediatric Patients with Minimal Pain and No After-effects 2023.12.28

Professor Sang Hoon Song, Division of Pediatric Urology

Achieving 273 Pediatric Robotic Surgeries, the Most in Korea… Pioneering the Application of Robotic Surgery for Pediatric Hydronephrosis and Vesicoureteral Reflux (VUR) in Korea



The Department of Urology at Asan Medical Center (AMC) was ranked 4th in the World and 1st in Korea in the ‘World’s Best Specialized Hospitals 2024’ by Newsweek, the U.S. weekly news magazine. Such global recognition brought over 3,500 international patients from more than 70 countries in the past decade to be treated at AMC’s Urology. Professor Sang Hoon Song, specializing in treating pediatric congenital urogenital diseases and uropathy resulting from acquired urinary tract obstruction, shares his story about international patient treatment.


What are your guiding principles when treating patients?

Whether foreign or local, I strive to provide a healthy life for pediatric patients with urological conditions. Congenital urogenital diseases in pediatric patients can result in lifelong suffering from illness or lingering after-effects if the treatment is mistimed or misdirected. I am dedicated to treating pediatric patients to minimize the many negative emotions experienced at a young age and improve their quality of life. Believing that it is possible to restore a healthy life through better treatment for patients with congenital urogenital abnormalities discovered in adulthood, I am constantly challenging myself to explore new surgical methods.


▲ Professor Sang Hoon Song is consulting a pediatric patient with vesicoureteral reflux


Tell us how you came to choose your medical specialty and about your medical experience so far

I developed a fascination for various endoscopic, laparoscopic, and open surgeries within urology, a field that has captivated me since my school days. Among these, I embraced the challenge of reconstruction of urinary tract obstructions in Pediatric Urology. This area demands extensive training, as well as an aesthetic sense and highly delicate skills. In 2018, I engaged in a year and a half of clinical research with Professor Chester Koh at Baylor College of Medicine-Texas Children’s Hospital in the United States. I also attended the Southwest National Pediatric Device Innovation Consortium (SWPDC) as a research topic planner and co-researcher. During the same period, I underwent urologic reconstruction training under Professor Michael Coburn at Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center. In July 2023, I had the opportunity to receive the latest knowledge on treating pediatric voiding dysfunction from Professor Israel Franco at Yale New Haven Hospital in the United States. At AMC Pediatric Urology was the first in Korea to apply robotic surgery, the latest minimally invasive surgical approach, to pediatric hydronephrosis and vesicoureteral reflux (VUR) caused by ureteropelvic junction obstruction. To date, the highest number of pediatric robotic surgeries in Korea have been performed at AMC Pediatric Urology, with a total of 273 cases. This achievement served as the basis for reporting pediatric surgery milestones in numerous leading journals for the first time in Korea. Over the past decade, I have published more than 90 papers in SCI-level journals.


▲ Professor Sang Hoon Song is performing robotic surgery for vesicoureteral reflux


What are the points you consider when treating international patients?

I strive to attentively listen to patients' words and provide optimal consultation and treatment, regardless of whether they are from abroad or local. However, I dedicate time to studying the culture and language of international patients to establish closer communication, especially as they may experience a higher barrier when coming to AMC compared to domestic patients. I firmly believe that the tension and communication barriers felt by international patients can be easily alleviated if they encounter medical professionals who respect their culture and customs in the unfamiliar land of Korea. Hence, I make an effort to at least greet them in their language.


Do you have any memorable international patients?

Recently, a six-year-old patient from Kazakhstan presented with true incontinence. Despite the child's age, discontinuing the use of diapers proved challenging due to persistent urinary incontinence caused by a duplex kidney and ectopic ureter. While conditions related to urination, such as incontinence, may not be life-threatening, they significantly impair the quality of life. The desperation and pain were evident in the eyes of both the child and the guardian. The ectopic ureter was safely resected and treated through robotic surgery, resulting in minimal pain and no after-effects. I vividly recall the child's bright smile and the mother's wholehearted gratitude. Additionally, I corrected the vesicoureteral reflux of a pediatric patient from the UAE suffering from posterior urethral valve disease. The child has been practicing intermittent self-catheterization to maintain bladder and kidney function and has been under follow-up for several years. The warm greetings and gratitude extended by the patient during each visit to Korea serve as a great source of encouragement for me.


▲ Professor Sang Hoon Song (center) poses for a photo with a pediatric patient and her mother from Kazakhstan


Any words you would like to say to international patients?

AMC is a world-class hospital, annually welcoming over 20,000 international patients and 400 international physicians. The dedicated medical professionals at AMC consistently strive to deliver optimal diagnoses and treatments to both domestic and international patients. Within the Department of Urology at AMC, our approach involves providing appropriate and effective treatments tailored to the patient’s condition. This spectrum includes non-surgical therapies, continuous follow-up, drug treatments, and, when necessary, robotic surgery for urinary disorders like prostatism, overactive bladder, and urinary incontinence—conditions that have seen a rapid increase in recent years. It is my hope that patients can overcome their illnesses and envision a healthy future by choosing to receive treatment at Asan Medical Center.


※ 'Meet AMC Experts' features dedicated doctors at Asan Medical Center(AMC) who shed light on international patients coming a long way from home for treatment.


Pediatric Urology
Professor Sang Hoon Song

Specialty : Hydronephrosis, Vesicoureteral reflux, Robotic surgery(Laparoscopic, Pediatric), Transplant, Prostatic hyperplasia, Hypospadias, Cryptorchidism, Hydrocele, Disorders of sex development, Ureteral duplication, Urinary tract cancers
Position : Associate Professor, Urology / Deputy Director, Office for Scientific Planning and Coordination
Academic Activities : Deputy Secretary General, The Korean Urological Association / Executive Director of Partnership Development Committee, The Korean Society of Pediatric Urology / Executive Director of Research Ethics Committee, The Korean Prostate Society / Published over 90 SCI-level papers in the past decade