Peel me a grape: USF training surgeons to use robots
Dr. Lennox Hoyte moved his finger ever so slightly, and the scalpel moved at his command, slicing a straight, clean cut right through the glistening skin…of a grape.
The grape was the patient at a press conference Monday to announce the opening of the USF Health da Vinci Center for Assisted Surgery. Dr. Hoyte, medical director of the center, and Dr. Alex Rosemurgy demonstrated how USF’s new robots can help surgeons perform intricate operations.
Peeling a grape is just the start of what the robots can do. USF is one of two centers in the country training doctors how to use the Si model of the da Vinci Surgical System. This robot, along with USF’s S model of the da Vinci, can be used by specialists in many disciplines, including gynecology, urology and colorectal surgery.
The center spotlights USF’s commitment to improving medicine, in this case surgical skills, so that the best quality of care is easily accessible for patients, said Dr. Stephen Klasko, CEO of USF Health and dean of the USF College of Medicine.
“This is a symbol of what USF means to the health care of the future,” Dr. Klasko said. “It really blends two things I’ve talked about: innovation and education.”
Mayor Pam Iorio, Dr. Lennox Hoyte, Dr. Stephen Klasko and Commissioner Mark Sharpe at Monday’s press conference.
At a press conference Monday to announce the opening of the new center, Dr. Klasko told Mayor Pam Iorio that he knows she likes to see patients travel to Tampa Bay so they can be treated by top-flight surgeons here.
“This is even better,” Dr. Klasko said. “We’re going to bring every surgeon to Tampa Bay.”
As many as 600 surgeons a year are expected to train each year at the center, a partnership between USF and Intuitive Surgical, Inc. It’s part of USF’s larger efforts to help improve surgical skills and medical training. The USF Simulation Center opened earlier this year at Tampa General Hospital, and Dr. Klasko told the crowd Monday that plans are being finalized on another project.
The new da Vinci center is the kind of project that helps boost Tampa’s reputation and increase its intellectual capital, said Mayor Pam Iorio.
“We will get the reputation, as a community, for being on the cutting edge of technology and innovation,” she said. “You really, Dr. Klasko, have a lot to be proud of.”
County Commissioner Mark Sharpe joked that new programs at USF Health have become routine.
“You’re going to help transform the county and our city,” he said. “You are the engine driving the change in healthcare all over the country.”
Surgeons who learn to use the robots can quickly improve their skills at performing minimally invasive surgery, Dr. Hoyte said. After about 20 procedures, their skill levels with the robots can match their abilities doing traditional, open surgery. He said many surgeons have to train for years in laparoscopic surgery to reach that same skill level.
“This is about a whole philosophy of medicine,” Dr. Hoyte said. “We have placed ourselves into the forefront of medical training.”
Dr. Lennox Hoyte and Dr. Renee Bassaly next to the da Vinci Si model.
When surgeons use the robots, patients can benefit. They have faster recovery and less pain than they would with many traditional open surgeries, Dr. Hoyte said. For example, after a traditional open hysterectomy, patients are hospitalized for 3 to 4 days. After a computer-assisted one, the patient can leave after a day or two.
That’s what one of Dr. Hoyte’s patients, Dr. Cheryl Jordan, found after she had a computer-assisted hysterectomy just 16 days ago.
“She is a living example of what a great assist the surgery is,” Dr. Hoyte said.
Dr. Jordan came to Monday’s press conference to tell the crowd that the surgery was “fabulous.” She had surgery on a Saturday and went to work for a few hours on Tuesday. She walked three miles the night before the press conference.
“I probably would have done it sooner if I had known about it,” she said.
Dr. Lennox Hoyte and his patient, Dr. Cheryl Jordan, at Monday’s press conference.
Dr. Jordan joined reporters at the press conference in trying out the Si model for herself, doing her best to peel a grape. The Si model has a dual console, making it easier to train other surgeons, as well as for surgeons in different specialties to perform complex operations together.
Dr. Rosemurgy, USF’s associate dean for medical simulation and academic enrichment , said that, much as he likes the Si, he is pushing for the robots to become even better.
“Don’t think of this as the destination,” he said. “This is an ongoing journey.”
Despite the robot’s advantages, it can only do so much. Mayor Iorio tried it out and confessed that, even with the robot’s help, her surgical skills are lacking.
“The grape died, unfortunately, in my less than capable hands,” she joked.
Story by Lisa Greene, Photos by Eric Younghans and Klaus Herdocia, Video by Klaus Herdocia, USF Communications Office