RCSI BioSoc’s 89th inauguaral address looks at surgical simulation and robotics

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‘The Role of Simulation and Robotics in Surgery’ was the theme of the RCSI Biological Society’s 89th inaugural address held earlier this year.

The historic Biological Society (BioSoc) is the official student society of RCSI and one of the oldest student medical societies in the world.

The address, held virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions at the time, was opened by BioSoc Student President, Anna Sophia Cacciola, followed by Faculty President and Consultant Otolaryngologist, Professor Rory McConn Walsh, who introduced a panel of expert speakers from across a range of surgical specialties.

Professor Oscar Traynor, Professor of Postgraduate Surgical Education at RCSI, delivered the esteemed Widdess Lecture on ‘How should we train tomorrow’s surgeons?’ Professor Traynor highlighted the importance of simulation across many high-risk professions, such as aviation and the military, noting that simulation now challenges the traditional model of surgical education. Professor Traynor predicted that further dramatic advances in robotic surgery are coming, and, with that, alternative training methods that will ensure the highest levels of skill and competence for surgeons.

Mr Richard Power, Consultant Urologist at RCSI and Beaumont Hospital, delivered an overview of the evolution of robotic surgery in urology over the span of his career, noting that now over 80% of radical prostatectomies in Ireland are performed robotically. Mr Power guided the audience through a recorded surgical procedure he had undertaken, detailing the process, techniques and possible complications. He further highlighted the numerous advantages of the transition towards robotic procedures, in particular the ease of surgery, significant decreased blood loss and reduced mortality.

Mr William Robb, Consultant Oesophago-gastric Surgeon at Beaumont Hospital and Blackrock Clinic, gave a talk aptly titled ‘Open surgery is over, laparoscopic surgery is limited, robotic surgery is reality’, recounting his journey and the drive required to keep up with advances in a rapidly evolving field. Using multiple examples, from an abdominal wall hernia to a gastric bypass, Mr Robb demonstrated the ease of manipulation and use of robotic tools with the right training. He stressed that robotics is no less of a team effort, despite the singular seat at the console, with efficient cooperation being key to a successful operation.

The final guest speaker of the evening was Ms Catherine Moran, Consultant Neurosurgeon at Beaumont Hospital, who was one of the first surgeons in Ireland to carry out deep brain stimulation (DBS), a technique used to alleviate symptoms associated with Parkinson’s. Ms Moran discussed the evolution of neurosurgery over the course of her career, highlighting the increased quality of preoperative imaging that allows surgeons to plan surgeries more accurately and efficiently. Ms Moran demonstrated a new form of intraoperative imaging called the O-arm, which provides surgeons with live, high-quality, versatile images during the procedure, allowing them to make informed clinical decisions in real-time. 

Speaking about the event, Professor McConn Walsh, BioSoc Faculty President, said: “We are delighted to host the 89th inaugural address of the Biological Society, and I thank our students for their efforts to hold this event virtually once again. As the pandemic continues to affect how we come together and share knowledge, it highlights the vital role of technology in overcoming challenges and improving lives, which is fitting for a meeting about advances in surgical robotics and simulation. 

“RCSI continues to be a world leader in the delivery of medical education; the implementation of the medical curriculum ensures that our students are empowered to be the future leaders in the delivery of safe, effective healthcare to the patients we treat.”

The event also announced the annual BioSoc prizes and medals, which were presented at an in-person ceremony on 2 April at RCSI St Stephen’s Green. The prizes were as follows: 

  • RCSI Council Medal (Senior Case Competition): Vrinda Munjal
  • Dr Arthur Stephen ffrench-O’Carroll Medal: Steven Browne
  • Denis Gill Medal (Paediatrics): Brian Li
  • Psychiatry Case Competition: Christine O'Keefe
  • Alan Browne Model (Obstetrics and Gyneacology Case Competition): Siobhán Ryan
  • Harold Browne Anatomy Medal: Erindaa Magendran, Sun Won Yuet Cherry, Grant Schutte
  • Harold Browne Anatomy Medal Runners Up: Stephen Petropoulos, Jaiten Saini, Chantelle Gomez
  • Mary Leader Medal in Pathology: Savanna Naylor, Linda Kelly, Ciarán Browne
  • Mary Leader Medal in Pathology Runners-Up: Mariam Sharfi, Nicole Melchior, Nabil Merchant
  • Tom Farrell Neuroscience Award (Nerves of Steel Quiz): Mohammad Ayub Yaser, Ishan Antony, Nadiya Bayeva
  • Tom Farrell Neuroscience Award (Nerves of Steel Quiz) Runners-Up: Maureen Graham, Eoin Butler, Luke McAuley
  • Oncology Journal Competition: Emily Panteli
  • Infectious Disease and Public Health Journal Competition: Dalia Chahien