Dr. Martin Chenu, a surgeon from Luque, Paraguay, wears Google Glass during surgery.
Imagine watching a procedure through the eyes of the surgeon. That’s exactly what surgical leaders in the United States were able to do while overseeing surgeons training in Paraguay and Brazil with the help of UCLA doctors and Google Glass. David Chen, MD (RES ’09), clinical director of UCLA’s Lichtenstein Amid Hernia Clinic, and Justin Wagner, MD, a surgical resident, have made it their mission to teach hernia surgery around the world, and they are harnessing the latest technologies to help.
Hernia repair is among the most-common surgical procedures performed worldwide, as well as one of the most teachable, lending itself to the advent of today’s technology, Dr. Chen says. The team used Google Glass, which, while worn like conventional glasses, houses a computer the size of a Scrabble tile and is outfitted with a touch-pad display and high-definition camera that can wirelessly stream live images.
With Drs. Chen and Wagner’s help, surgeons at a hospital in Paraguay wore Google Glass while performing a common type of hernia repair, transmitting the operations live to a select group of leading surgeons in the United States who could watch and oversee the procedures. The experts could also transmit their comments to the Paraguayan surgeons, who could read them on the Google Glass monitor.
UCLA surgeon Dr. David Chen (left) and Dr. Sergio Roll of Sao Paulo, Brazil, one of the local surgeons learning to use Google Glass.
“We are one of the first to use Google Glass in teaching and training surgeons from outside a country,” Dr. Chen says, adding that hernia surgery is just the beginning. “Our goal is to utilize the latest technologies like Google Glass, Facebook and Twitter in connecting everyone in medicine worldwide for educational purposes that can help improve medical care in resource-poor countries,” Dr. Chen says.
The UCLA team also visited Brazil, where they used Google Glass during three hernia surgeries and also streamed a live post-surgery debriefing session. The team also plans to train 15 surgeons from around Brazil who will then become trainers to teach other surgeons at several regional hospitals for underserved patients.
Similar programs are being implemented in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Ecuador as part of an educational arm of Hernia Repair for the Underserved, a nonprofit organization that provides free hernia surgery to children and adults in the Western Hemisphere. Dr. Chen is spearheading these educational projects with the UCLA team to help “train the trainers” and increase the number of surgeons performing this procedure in underprivileged countries. “We are developing practical applications for these technologies, so that surgeons in any setting can have access to the global surgical community from within their own operating rooms,” says Dr. Wagner. “Even after the training is over, local surgeons can be teleproctored remotely, so they will remain connected to experts worldwide.”