USF Health brings surgery robot to Berkeley Preparatory School

Some lucky students at Berkeley Preparatory School got a first-hand look at some advanced technology by using a multi-million dollar robotic system used to perform surgeries, thanks to USF Health physician Dr. Lennox Hoyte.

Dr. Hoyte, director of urogynecology and pelvic reconstructive surgery at USF Health, is a national leader in the use of robotic surgery to treat women with pelvic organ prolapse. He serves as medical director of the USF da Vinci Center for Computer Assisted Surgery,  and has personally trained surgeons nationally in the use of the da Vinci® surgical system.

On Wednesday, May 4, Dr. Hoyte arranged to have the da Vinci surgical system transported to the school so students who are already interested in robotics would have an opportunity to see how this kind of technology can be applied to surgery.

Gabriel Butterick, 16, couldn’t wait to get his hands on the da Vinci surgical system. The sophomore is part of the Berkeley Robotics Club. In addition to constructing robots of their own and competing state-wide, Robotics Club students study the different types of robots that are used across the world, including spy bots, and surgical bots.

Butterick was able to thread a needle with the robotic “claws” and turn over a quarter using a joy stick that controls the “arms” of the robot.


Dr. Lennox Hoyte talks about robotic technology in surgical care before supervising some Berkeley students as they practiced some simple tasks using the daVinci system.

“Using it was like an extension of your wrists and arms.  It was completely immersive with the 3D imaging,” Butterick said. “It thinks it’s amazing what technology is able to do.”

Next up to test the technology – Berkeley’s entire fifth-grade class.  Sixty-six children watched in awe, as a lucky few were able to handle the robot with Dr. Hoyte’s supervision.

Adelaide Adams, 11, was one of the students selected to “test drive” the robot. Fifth-grade students, including Adelaide, are studying a unit on the major organs of the human body and their functions.  

“It was really cool – you feel like you are using your hands except it’s in a different place,” she said. “I took a needle and put it through a tiny little loop, and it was really cool that you could actually do that stuff.”

For his part, Dr. Hoyte hopes students got a glimpse of how to apply robotic technology in surgical care, with the goal of getting young students interested in science and medicine.

“I was energized by the students’ enthusiasm, and amazed by their ability to improvise as they attempted to perform tasks with the robot,” he said.

Dr. Hoyte said it was also important for him to help students understand how these types of advancements in technology benefit patient care.

“This type of technology allows me to perform advanced surgeries while minimizing trauma to the patient. This allows for faster recovery and quicker return to regular activities.”

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.

Gabriel Butterick, 16, a member of the Berkeley Robotics Club

To see more about Dr. Hoyte’s visit to Berkeley Prep, please click here:

More background on Dr. Hoyte below:

Lennox Hoyte, M.D., MSEECS
Director, Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery University of South Florida

Dr. Hoyte received a Master’s degree in electrical engineering from MIT, and an MD degree from Stanford University. He completed an OB/GYN residency at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and advanced fellowship training in Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery Loyola University, Chicago.

A board certified OB/GYN physician, Dr. Hoyte is a Fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and an elected member of the Society of Gynecologic Surgeons. He has authored many peer reviewed publications and book chapters on female pelvic floor disorders, pelvic imaging and childbirth related injury.

Dr. Hoyte serves on editorial review boards of several peer reviewed medical journals, and has been invited to speak nationally and internationally on Pelvic Anatomy and Biomechanics, Overactive Bladder, and Management of Pelvic Organ Prolapse and Incontinence. Dr. Hoyte is co-author of the book “robotic hysterectomy”, designed to educate women and their families about hysterectomy options.

Dr. Hoyte is also an active clinical researcher, currently working to develop simulation models to help understand the mechanisms of childbirth related pelvic floor injury, with the goal of preventing these injuries in the future.

Story by Susanna Martinez Tarokh, and photos by Eric Younghans, USF Health Communications