JET PILOTS BEGAN CRASHING PLANES ON A DAILY BASIS WITHOUT DISTURBING A SINGLE
PASSENGER, SURGEONS LIKE EMORY'S DANIEL SMITH TOOK NOTE. The cockpits looked
and felt real, but the flight path and landing strips were video simulations
that continually presented new challenges and feedback on how well the pilot
was handling both the plane and the unpredictability of weather, engine
failure, air traffic, even a bird strayed into the intake. Learn first.
Then—and only then—get in a plane. Or an operating room.
Surgical procedures increasingly are performed via videoscopy with customized instruments and tiny cameras placed through incisions far too small to admit a surgeon’s hand. The surgical team “sees” the tissue being operated on through two-dimensional images on an overhead television monitor, and remotely controlled surgical robots provide greater precision than ever possible with the human hand alone. In the future, the surgeon can operate with exacting care on what appears on the monitor to be a motionless heart or brain tumor or pancreas while the robot monitors heart rate, breathing, and other movement and corrects placement of the instrumentation.
The Emory Simulation, Training and Robotics (ESTAR) program headed by Smith has made Emory one of the leading schools in the nation for teaching surgical procedures via simulation and for research validating this innovative type of training.
Surgeons come to Emory from across the world to learn and master the tricky hand-eye coordination required to navigate instruments in a laparoscopic environment. Soon, Emory will be “going home” with many of them. Surgeons who learn new procedures at ESTAR can continue their simulation training back in their own institutions, while Emory faculty monitor their progress over the Internet. When the surgeons are ready to perform a new procedure for the first time on a real patient, an Emory surgeon will use Internet-connected robots to be virtually present in the operating room, wherever in the world that may be.
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