Halloween fun: St. Joe's surgeons 'operate' on pumpkins for Doc-O-Lantern contest

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Dr. Ronald Gagliano, a specialist in colon and rectal surgery, won this year’s bragging rights. (Source: Dignity Health) Dr. Ronald Gagliano, a specialist in colon and rectal surgery, won this year’s bragging rights. (Source: Dignity Health)
Dr. Kris Smith, a neurosurgeon said it's fun to 'let loose a little and relax and remember that life is worth living.' (Source: Dignity Health) Dr. Kris Smith, a neurosurgeon said it's fun to 'let loose a little and relax and remember that life is worth living.' (Source: Dignity Health)
Dr. Samand Hashimi clearly had the mechanical upper hand with the high-tech sculpting. (Source: Dignity Health) Dr. Samand Hashimi clearly had the mechanical upper hand with the high-tech sculpting. (Source: Dignity Health)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

A dozen knife-wielding surgeons put their extensive training and finely-honed skills to use on a group of unique patients Halloween morning when they competed in the Doc-A-Lantern Pumpkin Carving Contest.

Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center has hosted the contest for years, but this is the first time it has happened on Halloween.

Our Kylee Cruz was there, appropriately dressed as a nurse (you have to hear the story about her name tag), for the carve-off.

A Da Vinci surgical robot, operated by Dr. Samad Hashimi, was among the competitors this year.

“The robot’s gonna take it home,” a hospital spokesman told Cruz. “It’s gonna carve a lot more precise [sic] than some of the surgeons over here with their knives.”

The surgeons had 30 minutes to do their best work.

[WATCH: Let the carving begin!]

The pumpkin carving competition is a long-standing tradition.

This year marks the seventh event for Dr. Edward Donahue, the hospital’s chief medical officer.

“I’ve never won,” he said with a laugh.

He had high hopes that this year would be his year.

“It better be,” he said.

The key to winning, according to Donahue, is planning. He explained that his entry was “a very traditional Halloween scarecrow pumpkin.”

He said he thought the robot would be his biggest competition.

Dr. Kris Smith, a neurosurgeon at Barrow Brain and Spine, competed last year. Although he did not win, he came close.

“They said I was very close,” he told Cruz while carving his masterpiece. “I was a strong finisher.”

“Unfortunately, what I do is usually very serious stuff,” he continued. “It’s nice to kind of let loose a little and relax and remember that life is worth living.”

This year’s top prize did not go to either Donahue or Smith (better luck next year, gentlemen) or even the robot.

[WATCH: And the winner is...]

Dr. Ronald Gagliano, a specialist in colon and rectal surgery, won this year’s bragging rights.

“It feels great, actually,” he said of his triumph. “It was great to have an opportunity to come together with our colleagues, to do something festive and fun ….”

But it wasn’t all fun and games. Gagliano said his entry carried an important message about colon health and screening.

“’Hey, look. Getting your colon screening – that’s not scary. But not getting it and developing advanced cancer – that is scary,’” he explained.

In short, colon screening can save your life.

Gagliano, a first-time contestant, described the Doc-A-Lantern Pumpkin Carving Contest as a bit like “Iron Chef,” and said it’s not all that different from actual surgery.

“It’s the same principles we use in any operation,” Gagliano said. “We think about what we’re gonna do. We get our tools. We have it ready. We rehearsed it so that when we get to the event it’s all go.”

Although Gagliano won the Doc-O-Lantern championship trophy, longtime carver Donahue did not walk away empty-handed.

"This year by a special vote of the twilight organizing committee, he was honored with a lifetime achievement award, and a trophy the height of a headstone," according to a news release about the event.  

Trick-or-treating tips from Dignity Health

  • Street Smarts: Carrying glow sticks or flashlights and equipping costumes with reflective tape are all ways to make trick-or-treaters more visible for drivers. When roaming streets in search of the best candy, remember the importance of safety in numbers and looking both ways before crossing the street.
  • Beware of Stranger Danger: Children should always be supervised and advised to never enter a stranger’s home.
  • Shorter Spooks: Costume selection is fun and exciting for all ages, but the best way to ward off trips and falls is to make sure that costumes are not too long and that high heels are not too tall.
  • Boo the Sweet Tooth: Along with checking candy for tampering before eating, try to keep kids from eating too much candy while collecting. Make sure they have a good meal before leaving home.

MORE HALLOWEEN TREATS


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