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Knives out! Evolving heart surgery education

Knives out! Evolving heart surgery education is crucial to equip surgeons with the skills to match the technology.

An eminent heart surgeon claims the rapid development of transcatheter surgical techniques represent the biggest short and medium-term challenges – and the most exciting innovation, for heart surgeons today.

Dr. Nirav C Patel MD, the Director of Robotic Surgery for Northwell Health, and Vice Chairman of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital, both in New York, explains that similarly to transcatheter techniques, robotic surgery can be performed without the need to open the chest. Robotic surgery can offer numerous benefits including high-definition visuals of the area being treated, micro-precise movements for greater accuracy and steady instrument control that minimizes any human hand tremors. Robotic surgeries are also by their very nature less invasive than traditional open-heart techniques, stresses Dr Patel.

He says: “A lot of procedures we are now doing surgically, such as some of the valve replacements and valve repairs, are being performed transcatheter because of the tremendous innovation in this space, as well as the excellent results in some of the outcomes of the newer technologies.”

He stresses that while traditional surgical skills do and will continue to apply as techniques advance at pace, the newest generations of heart surgeons will need a unique combination of both physical and mental dexterity coupled with impeccable eye-to-hand co-ordination. The importance of dexterity training will remain despite innovation in technology.

To champion the call to action, Dr. Patel has joined forces with New York-based, Michelin-starred chef Fredrik Berselius and global MedTech provider Getinge, to develop an innovative training tool – ‘The Heart Surgeon’s Cookbook’. Nine of “the world’s most difficult” recipes are aimed at helping surgeons practice their dexterity skills and mental agility outside of the operating room in an innovative, challenging yet fun way.

“It’s a different kind of dexterity for transcatheter and robotic surgical work,” explains Dr. Patel, adding: “For instance, I grew up in India, where I’d never played a video game. But doing robotic surgery is almost like playing a video game on a console in terms of some of the skills needed. It requires hand-to-eye coordination – looking at the screen but using your hands to perform the tasks.”

He also underlines that the heart surgeons of tomorrow are able to adopt digital skills much faster than previous generations, and how they learn has also changed: “When I was junior surgeon, to prepare for a procedure I relied on two dimensional photographs and diagrams.

Today operative videos can even be found on YouTube so trainees can watch videos of procedures to prepare In fact, newer innovations such as virtual reality are being used to help train the next generation of surgeons. I think incorporating these virtual platforms is the way to attract the younger generations and train them to become surgeons of the future.”

He also stresses that as ‘digital native’ teens become the next generation of heart surgeons, medical education will need to adapt to “the way newer students are hardwired”.

However, Dr. Patel also warns that despite the rise of innovative surgical techniques, there is no substitute for hard work, skills practice, and the innate dexterity that heart surgery requires.

“You could be very bright, but you brain has to connect with your fingers or hand to execute the right movements,” he says, adding that training and maintaining dexterity is essential for all surgeons, regardless of what type of surgery they are performing.

Carsten Blecker, Chief Commercial Officer at Getinge and dentist by training knows well how important the manual skills and continuous practice of the latter are for any surgeon, Carsten adds: “The Heart Surgeon’s Cookbook celebrates the phenomenal skills of surgeons and is a great tool to put into practice one’s dexterity”.

Carsten continues: “The skill and precision of Dr. Patel and Chef Fredrik in developing and creating recipes for the cookbook is inspirational; we’re making it available to surgeons globally so that everyone can use it to practice their skills, have fun and create sophisticated dishes for family and friends.”

The Heart Surgeon’s Cookbook celebrates their phenomenal skills, whilst also being a great training tool. Surgeon’s consistently practice their skills – either in the operating room or at home, to maintain both their focus, physical and mental dexterity. This cookbook can help them to do that in an innovative and creative way.

The Heart Surgeon’s Cookbook recipes developed by Fredrik and Dr. Patel  have some delicious recipes for ensembles such as:

  • Kingfish Rose with Green Gooseberry
  • Roasted Quail with Truffle and Ramp
  • Venison and Savoy Cabbage
  • Sea Scallop and Turnip in Warm Broth
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