Published February 2, 2022
Steven D. Schwaitzberg, MD, professor and chair of surgery, has partnered with Swiss medical education company VirtaMed to trial one of the company’s new mixed-reality laparoscopic simulators — the LaparoS.
“Virtual reality based surgical simulation is one of the most exciting opportunities for safely training residents going into procedural-based specialties. We are thrilled to be able to offer this opportunity at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences,” says Schwaitzberg, president of UBMD Surgery and an expert in virtual reality simulation for medical education who has a long list of successful grants and research on the subject.
The simulator is on loan to UB Rise (Research, Innovation, Structure, Simulation, Education, Engineering) for six months and is being utilized by the Behling Human Simulation Center and the Surgical Skills Lab.
Access to high-quality simulation is increasingly important as reduced working hours and fewer elective procedures due to the pandemic have made it increasingly difficult to get adequate hands-on surgical experience. The availability of advance surgical simulation, such as that provided by the LaparoS, gives students and residents the opportunity to practice complicated procedures in realistic but controlled environments.
“This simulator brings together many validated concepts with a wonderful new patient-centric approach that has the ability to fulfill all my wishes as a medical educator,” says Martina Vitz, PhD, who helped develop the LaparoS at VirtaMed.
The LaparoS offers a more realistic surgical experience when compared to earlier simulators. Surgical residents using the simulator must start with patient safety steps, such as ensuring proper patient positioning and trocar placement. The simulator also focuses on training teamwork, and surgeons must learn to work in teams just as they would in real life. Studies have shown that better teamwork in the operating room translates into improved surgical outcomes.
The simulator is designed to be integrated as part of a comprehensive surgical training program, like the program offered at the Jacobs School. The simulator keeps up with a student’s development by utilizing proficiency-based progression, which means it supports those just starting their training by helping them master essential skills like camera navigation and hand-eye coordination once they demonstrate they are ready. The simulator also offers training support for increasingly complex tasks and procedures like cholecystectomy and incisional hernia.
Because they are not operating on a real patient, simulation also provides the valuable opportunity to learn how to deal with challenging situations and complications in a safe environment. These features ensure that residents at all levels benefit from having simulation as part of their training.
Michael Lamb, MD, research assistant professor of surgery and director of surgical education at the Jacobs School, will be coordinating a planned study on the LaparoS. The goal of the study is to determine the efficacy of different training programs.
According to Lamb, planned studies, “offer a great opportunity to gain a detailed sense of how laparoscopic skills are acquired by new learners. We are very excited to be partnered with VirtaMed for this study.”
Long an advocate for physicians and surgeons learning about the connections between business and health care, Schwaitzberg launched a competitive medical device startup boot camp called UB BLAST (Business, Law and Surgical Technology) in the Jacobs School that challenges teams of UB students studying medicine, business, law and engineering to work together to develop a new product to address a specific surgical problem and then create a startup to manufacture and market it.
“In addition to being a renowned surgeon, Dr. Schwaitzberg is an innovator who thinks about the future of health care and is not satisfied with the status quo,” says Allison Brashear, MD, UB’s vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School. “His success with UB BLAST has shown what can be achieved with the proper partnership between academia and business.”