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MUHC, industry to train students in surgical tech

Jake BarraletMONTREAL – The McGill University Health Centre has received a $1.6 million grant to fund a new project that will provide inter-disciplinary training to students in the field of surgical robotics. The project will also aim to produce new surgical technologies and products.

Nearly 90 students at McGill, both undergraduates and graduates, will have access to cross-disciplinary training through this new grant from NSERC’s Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE) program.

The six-year project will be led by Dr. Jake Barralet (pictured), who teaches experimental surgery in the Faculties of Medicine and Dentistry and specializes in bioceramic applications within orthopaedics.

McGill’s project will emphasize innovation-oriented teamwork, pioneering for the first time in Canada a training model designed at Stanford University. With some 15 private-sector partners, the training will cover all aspects of surgery-related technology, from tools for diagnosis and patient risk reduction to postoperative monitoring and care.

“Dr. Jake Barralet’s newly funded project at McGill, Innovation at the Cutting Edge, will be a model program of industry partnership in the area of surgical devices,” said Rosie Goldstein, McGill’s vice-principal of research and international relations. “The project’s participants will benefit from unparalleled preparation for career opportunities in healthcare technology.”

“This award provides a unique opportunity for teams of surgeons, scientists, engineers, and business students to work together to improve patient care by applying the process of needs-based clinical innovation,” said Dr. Barralet. The MUHC “provides a fertile environment to expose this multi-disciplinary team to a variety of clinical problems, challenging them to create innovative solutions.”

Some of the innovations are on display in a special operating room at the MUHC’s Glen site – a high-tech dummy that can simulate a variety of medical situations and a 3D printer used to recreate anatomically correct body parts to better train surgeons. The printers help create models of human anatomy that feel like human tissue.

“One of the goals that we’re trying to do here is to create materials, by mixing materials at different temperatures and different directions and fibres, to try to recreate the human situation so we have tissue fidelity,” said Dr. Kevin Lachapelle, vice chair of surgery at McGill.

McGill is one of the first Canadian universities to develop a program that brings together students from a variety of disciplines – business, engineering and science and surgical trainees – to create new surgical technologies.

“When they’re developing a new technology they can already answer the questions, ‘Who needs this? Why do they need it? How many people need it? When do they need it?’ and so on,” said Dr. Barralet.

The hope is the new technologies will help make surgery cheaper, safer, and better for patients.

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