Televised surgery places students on cutting edge

Surgical teaching in UBC's Faculty of Medicine will soon be using state-of-the-art electronics thanks to an innovative new facility called the Centre of Excellence for Surgical Education.

The centre will support patient care, medical education and research using electronic communications, telemedicine and computerized simulations.

"This program will be at the forefront worldwide of combining technology and education in medical services," says Karim Qayumi, associate professor of Surgery, who will be the centre's first director. "The centre will also serve as a powerful database for health care and educational research."

The new facility -- to be set up in Vancouver General Hospital's Laurel Pavilion -- will give medical students, nurses, residents and practicing surgeons a chance to observe surgical operations in a classroom setting via a telemonitor linked to the operating room.

Students will be able to ask questions of a surgical educator who can adjust the scope of the camera through a remote control and zoom in on specific areas of the operation.

In addition, the operations will be videotaped for continued study by medical students, residents and doctors. The centre will be linked to the 80 UBC-affiliated hospitals for telelearning and continuing medical education.

"We've wanted to implement Dr. Qayumi's vision of this centre for some time but needed technology to reach a certain level to be useful and cost-effective," says Dr. Richard Finley, head of the Surgery Dept. " Now, with the support of our industry partner, it's very exciting to make the vision a reality."

Once the system is fully operational, the technology will also be used in other areas of patient care with terminals placed in regional hospitals for on-line consultations and diagnosis.

For example, a trauma patient at a ski slope in B.C.'s interior may be assessed at the local hospital by world-class specialists located in Vancouver. Distance consultation will reduce discomfort and inconvenience to the patient as well as costs of medical transportation, adds Qayumi.

Auto Suture Canada, a medical equipment company, has donated $1 million towards the centre with $500,000 supplied now and another $500,000 within the next four years.

The centre will be completed in stages with the first stage to be completed by fall 2000. The entire project will be completed within three years.