SMC Anatomy Students Interact With Surgeon During Live Telesurgery

Science students interact with surgeon during live telesurgery. Students taking Biology Professor Gregory Smith’s Human Anatomy course gathered around a TV in Brosseau Hall on Thursday, May 2, to participate in a unique first at Saint Mary’s—interacting with a surgeon while watching a live telesurgery of a hip replacement. From first cut to last, students identified anatomy and asked questions of Stefan Kreuzer, MD, from Advanced Center for Orthopedics in Houston.

While students previously had seen prerecorded surgeries, this was the first time many were able to interact directly and ask questions as surgery was performed. Besides providing a lesson in live anatomy, the surgical team demonstrated 3-D printed hydroxyapatite implants and computer navigation technology used in today’s hip replacements, and discussed how these result in better patient recovery rates and reduced pain.

“The telesurgery was an amazing experience for my anatomy students. They haven’t stopped talking about it,” commented Smith. “The value of having access to telesurgery in an anatomy course is tremendous.”

Of course, live surgery is not for the faint of heart. Students oohed and aahed at the tools and techniques used. Watching the medical team utilize a tool nicknamed “the cheese-grater” as it cleared a path is enough to make any non medical person regret breakfast. But it offered these anatomy students an opportunity to test themselves and realize that the knowledge they’ve gained in class allows them to understand the surgeon’s actions, terminology, and techniques.

“I will say that the experience my students had today was unique for an undergraduate human anatomy course,” said Smith. “I think the other value of this telesurgery is that my students realized their anatomical knowledge at this point in the semester is such that they could understand everything the surgeon said and appreciate the rationale for why the surgery was done the way it was; in other words, anatomical knowledge guided the surgical procedure.”

Students applauded at the end of the successful surgery, and Dr. Kreuzer thanked the students for allowing him to teach. The class ended with the promise of more tele surgeries to come. Dr. Kreuzer said, “We would love to offer more, and we do have some other telesurgery technology, where the picture will be even better.” The witty banter, humor, and rapport Dr. Kreuzer had with students created a unique educational experience that will likely influence these students for years to come.