As the first surgeon in the US to obtain a doctorate in education, Carla M. Pugh, MD, PhD, FACS, MAMSE, is dedicated to leveraging emerging technologies to improve patient outcomes by shortening the learning curve for healthcare practitioners. She will discuss the role of wearable technology in precision surgery today during the I. S. Ravdin Lecture in the Basic and Surgical Sciences.
Dr. Pugh, professor of surgery at Stanford University School of Medicine and director of the Technology Enabled Clinical Improvement Center, will illustrate how the use of sensor and data acquisition technology in surgery can quantify a clinician’s haptic abilities and provide critical learning insights grounded in cognitive task analysis. She said the medical field has only begun to scratch the surface of this technology’s potential, which she has experienced firsthand.
When Dr. Pugh wore EEG sensors in the operating room, she found there were clear distinctions between her brain activity during an appendectomy versus a cholecystectomy. Additionally, she discovered her brain activity lit up when she was explaining something to a resident that was of critical importance.
“There’s a long history of difficulty in step-by-step critical decisions out of someone’s brain once they become an expert,” Dr. Pugh said. “The EEG data show when you’re most engaged mentally. You can’t get that from AI video analysis.”
Dr. Pugh recalled videotaping a famous surgeon who designed casts for infants with clubbed feet. She noticed the surgeon standing at a particular angle and his eyes darting back and forth. She realized he was performing geometric calculations on the top of the baby’s foot. When Dr. Pugh pointed this out, the surgeon realized he made the calculations almost subconsciously and had never explicitly taught this to his trainees.
“Once I asked him about it, he just regurgitated specific measurement information he’d never verbalized before and I thought, ‘We’re so doomed,’” Dr. Pugh said. “It shouldn’t take 20 years for the trainees to figure out how to do that exam with his level of expertise and put the cast on perfectly every single time. That’s what I’m after.”
Dr. Pugh holds multiple patents related to the use of sensor and data acquisition technology. More than 200 medical and nursing schools use her sensor-enabled training tools, and her work has received numerous awards, including the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers in 2011.
She hopes policymakers, researchers, and philanthropists will advocate for this technology so its adoption in the operating room and clinics can be expedited.
“It’s money,” Dr. Paugh explained. “The technology’s ready and the data are amazing. Precision surgery is here. We just need to launch.”
This annual lecture has been sponsored by the I. S. Ravdin Surgical Society since 1964 to honor Dr. Ravdin by promoting knowledge in basic sciences with application to surgery.
The 45-minute session begins at 4:15 pm in Room 5AB of the San Diego Convention Center. It will be livestreamed for registrants who could not attend in-person. The on-demand version will be available within an hour after presentation.