Freeman News

Freeman Celebrates 400th MONARCH® Robotic Bronchoscopy

November 15, 2023

Freeman News

Freeman Celebrates 400th MONARCH® Robotic Bronchoscopy

November 15, 2023
Patient Says Early Detection Resulted in Successful Lung Cancer Treatment

JOPLIN, Mo. – Freeman President and Chief Executive Officer Paula Baker grinned as she posed behind a special banner announcing the 400th procedure utilizing MONARCH, an innovative robotic machine that continues to push the boundaries in the fight against lung cancer.

Freeman is the first and only health system in Missouri, Southeast Kansas and Northeast Oklahoma to offer the MONARCH program to its patients.

“Lung cancer can be tricky to diagnose, and there’s a high incidence of lung cancer right here in Southwest Missouri. It’s a particularly deadly disease, in part because patients usually don’t notice any symptoms until the cancer has progressed to the later stages,” Baker said during Wednesday morning’s press conference. “At Freeman, we’ve seen a huge upswing in early detection with the MONARCH, bringing hope and relief to patients and their families across the region.”

Used to view the inside of the lungs and obtain a tissue sample for biopsy, Auris Health’s MONARCH platform enables physicians to reach tiny, hard-to-reach peripheral lung nodules with greater precision than ever before – detecting lung cancers at the earliest possible stages. The machine does this by combining robotics, micro-instrumentation and small cameras and tools into a single, integrated system that in some ways resembles a videogame system, complete with controllers and monitors.

“We are excited about the promise of this technology to offer a more hopeful future for our patients with lung cancer,” said Dr. Pierson, Freeman pulmonologist, who completed the 400th procedure earlier this year. “I foresee being able to biopsy a nodule for diagnosis and then initiate treatment even before a patient walks out the door.”

More than 90 percent of patients diagnosed with lung cancer do not survive the disease, in part because it is often found at advanced stages. However, if diagnosed and treated early, survival rates increase dramatically.

Patricia Herrerra, of Baxter Springs, Kansas, underwent a positron emission tomography (PET) scan in which a spot, deep in her lungs, was presumed to be Stage 4 lung cancer.

“I didn’t like my diagnosis; it wasn’t good enough for me,” the mother of six said. “I felt like there had to be something else out there.”

She waited two months after her initial diagnosis before connecting with Dr. Pierson at Freeman Lung Institute. After consultation, she chose to have her lung examined by MONARCH.

“With MONARCH, I was able to get deeper into her lung, biopsy multiple different sites with confidence and accuracy,” Dr. Pierson said. “The right tool in the right hands can truly change the world of lung cancer and I think that’s what MONARCH is doing.”

To Herrerra’s relief, the biopsy showed no malignancy.

“I got a call from Dr. Pierson himself and he said he’d seen nothing; that nothing cancerous had grown on the cultures so it was 100 percent not cancer,” she said. “Dr. Pierson never made me feel like I was just a patient. He would keep me updated on any changes or diagnosis. Doctors don’t do that very often. He’s a superhero in my eyes.”

For more information about MONARCH or pulmonology services at Freeman, please call 417.347.8315 or visit