Training the robotic surgeons of the future | Chris O'Brien Lifehouse
 In Lifehouse News

Last week we welcomed 16 eager and excited young scientists from Newington College to Lifehouse and the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Institute of Academic Surgery (IAS) to learn about robotic surgery.

The boys from grades three to six are members of the school’s Scientia and STEM club programs.

First stop on the visit was the IAS, a comprehensive hub of surgical research and education, where robotic surgeons and urologists Associate Professor Ruban Thanigasalam and Dr Scott Leslie spoke to the boys about the life of a surgeon.

They practised keyhole surgery skills and learnt cardio-pulmonary resuscitation before trying their hands at robotic suturing.

“It takes many years of training and hard work to become a surgeon but it is an incredibly challenging, rewarding and exciting career choice. I hope that by showing these young students what we do we might inspire some of them to go down that path,” said Associate Professor Thanigasalam.

“Even though the kids are in grades three to six, often unique opportunities such as this will stimulate interest in medicine, surgery and science and potentially robotic surgery in the future. We may even be standing here in 30 years with one of these kids who has been here for this visit and as a result continued through to become a (robotic) surgeon,” he said.

The students went on to the operating theatres in Chris O’Brien Lifehouse to be introduced to the robot.

RPA and Lifehouse are two of the first hospitals in the southern hemisphere to have the da Vinci Xi Surgical system – one of the world’s most advanced pieces of surgical hardware.

After a demonstration by Associate Professor Thanigasalam, the schoolboys stepped up to the console and had a go at manoeuvring small hoops around a collection of cones. “This is harder than a video game!” one of them was heard to say.

The surgical robot translates the hand movements of the surgeon into precise movements of tiny, wristed instruments inside the patient’s body. The surgeon controlling the robot views the movements through a magnified 3D and HD system.

There is evidence to suggest that robotic surgery patients experience less pain and a faster recovery than with conventional surgery. RPA is leading research into the clinical outcomes of patients who have had their surgery with the robot.

“Although these young scientists have got small and nimble hands, the robot has a much wider range of movement when bending and rotating than the human hand, enabling the students to perform better and more precise ‘operations’,” says Associate Professor Thanigasalam.

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