For those who have not stepped foot in a medical school and all their audiovisual experience with an operating room has been limited to seeing the handsome “Grey’s Anatomy” put bypasses with hats that seemed to be designed by Hugo Boss, the idea of an operation with an audience is that of a kind of amphitheater with large windows where students are placed to see the work of the teacher.

The reality is usually more prosaic but not very different: almost always the novice doctors observe the operations over the surgeon’s shoulder.

However, the possibilities offered by new technologies can change this forever. This is what surgeon Shafi Ahmed achieved in April 2016 by broadcasting a live colon cancer operation for thousands of students to follow via virtual reality.

Success stories

Safhi Ahmed, one of whose operations had already been followed in 2014 by 13,000 students around the world through Google Glass, is an experienced surgeon and one of the founders of Medical Realities. Formed by physicians and technology experts, this company specializes in the application of virtual reality and augmented reality in the education and training of future doctors. Its programs allow them to reach more people without the need to be present at the physical location where the operation is performed and also offers the possibility of interacting with the doctor who is operating at the time.

So far, the technology allows images and sounds to be sent, but Ahmed believes that soon tactile stimuli can also be transmitted, so that students will have the feeling of performing the operation themselves. The next step will surely be interventions by robots, which will raise interesting ethical debates, says Ahmed, who despite being at the forefront of these practices, is convinced that in a few years the advances will be so amazing that he himself will have “become obsolete”.

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