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Future of medicine considers robotics

January 24, 2013
Special to the Town Crier

Students interested in careers in the medical field got a hands-on lesson in surgery recently at Eastwood Mall in Niles.

Students from a handful of area high schools were invited to participate in a classroom session at St. Joe's at the Mall Dec. 15 with physicians who use the surgical robot to perform minimally invasive procedures in place of more traditional open surgeries. Robot-assisted surgery enables physicians to perform delicate and complex procedures through tiny incisions with greater precision, vision, dexterity and control than either open or laparoscopic procedures allow. This results in less pain and quicker recovery for patients. It also results in fewer and smaller scars, less blood loss, lower risk of infection and fewer complications.

"I now know that I want to go into medicine," was heard from students who were part of the demonstration, which included Boardman High School senior Andrew Comstock. Other kids said it was "awesome" and a "great use of technology."

Article Photos

Andrew Comstock, a senior at Boardman High School, examines the da Vinci surgical robot. A screen over his shoulder provides a close-up view of the surgical field. In the operating room, this screen allows assisting physicians, nurses and technicians to view the surgeon’s progress.

Robot-assisted surgery has been available at St. Elizabeth Health Center in Youngstown since 2007. Humility of Mary Health Partners, to which St. Elizabeth and St. Joseph health centers belong, is the only health care provider in nine contiguous counties offering the robot-assisted surgery.

Following the classroom session, where students were able to ask physicians about everything from pathways to careers in health care and what would be required of them in medical school to the rapid advancement of technology and the role of robotics in surgery, physicians and representatives from Intuitive Surgical invited them to move to the Eastwood Mall's center court where the da Vinci surgical system was on display, sit at the surgeon's console and "operate" using the robot to perform a series of exercises.

Students operating the robot viewed the "surgical field" from the surgeon's perspective, which offers a superior 3-D view, and used the system to control surgical instruments to complete tasks such as picking up jacks and placing them in a dish, stretching rubber bands around pencil erasers and rearranging other small objects.

As students took turns at the surgeon's console, their classmates, teachers and the physicians watched their progress on screens that offer everyone in the room a clear view of the surgical field. In the operating room, this enables assisting physicians, nurses and technicians to better anticipate the needs of the surgeon.



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