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  • Jackie Carr

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  • Jackie Carr

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UC San Diego Unveils Center for the Future of Surgery

One of the training facilities in the new Center for the Future of Surgery

Photo by Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications

“The lab is unbelievable. I consider myself lucky. When I am not writing research papers, I can take a break and train on the new robots,” said Dr. Elisa Coker, a 4th year resident in the Department of Surgery at UC San Diego School of Medicine. “I work here every day and am still blown away when I give tours. There is nothing like it in the world.”

What Coker is referring to is the recently opened Center for the Future of Surgery (CFoS) located in the new Medical Education and Telemedicine Building at the School of Medicine. CFOS is the largest surgery training and research facility in the United States. Its gleaming white rooms boast more than 20 training stations located within 11,440 square feet of space. Surgeons, gastroenterologists and nurses can access the newest simulators, tools and cameras, representing $30 million in equipment.

“I am part of a surgical team that is developing new minimally invasive techniques that are better for patients in terms of recovery and cosmetic effect,” said Coker, who arrived at UCSD from the University of Colorado. “At one time, laparoscopy was considered a new crazy technique. Now, it’s the standard of care. That’s what we are doing here at UC San Diego, developing the next techniques and tools that will revolutionize surgery.”

Coker and the surgical residents gravitate to the Simbionix LAP Mentor, a simulator that teaches basic as well as advanced laparoscopic skills. The system features seven procedures and 60 patient scenarios.

“It’s essentially like a video game that helps you practice eye and hand coordination,” said Coker. “Different kinds of operations can be performed including bariatric and colon procedures as well as gynecologic and urologic surgery.”

Surgeons who train at the Center for the Future of Surgery represent experts in all stages of their careers. It is expected that surgeons from more than seven countries will arrive in 2012 to learn natural orifice translumenal endoscopic surgery, or NOTES. This type of surgery allows surgeons to remove diseased organs through natural body openings such as the mouth. NOTES was pioneered at UC San Diego by Drs. Santiago Horgan and Mark Talamini.

“We were the first surgeons in the United States to remove a diseased appendix through the mouth,” said Dr. Santiago Horgan, chief of minimally invasive surgery and CFoS director. “While operating through the mouth or vagina may seem shocking, you can’t argue with the results. Patients are healing quickly and having shorter hospital stays. As a global training center, our ultimate goal is to develop and teach safe methods that will result in better outcomes, less pain and faster recoveries for every patient.”

One of the lab rooms at CFOS is marked “007” and reserved for medical device development. Here, surgeons can test and give feedback on tool prototypes.

 “The Center for the Future of Surgery is part of the wheel of innovation at UC San Diego,” said Dr.Mark Talamini, professor and chairman of surgery at UC San Diego Health System. “To develop tools and techniques that are most safe for patients, surgeons and device manufacturers must exchange ideas and feedback. The Center for the Future of Surgery can spur these interactions by bringing surgeons, engineers, scientists and designers into one room, outside the OR, to refine everything from laparoscopic cameras to robotics.”

To learn more about the Center for the Future of Surgery, please call 619-543-5347or visit:

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