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Panni Wins Top Gun 2024

Every year, general surgery residents participate in friendly competition to see who has the fastest laparoscopic skills at the Washington University Institute for Surgical Education (WISE) Top Gun competition.

The winner of the final round then goes on to represent the program at the national Top Gun competition at the Society of American Gastrointestinal Endoscopic Surgeons (SAGES) annual meeting. Washington University has had several national winners throughout the years, which is a testament to the program’s thorough laparoscopic curriculum and training.

The speed tests were organized and scored by WISE Administrator Gretchen Blow, MSL, EdD, and education service coordinators Angelia DeClue and Karen Schubert, and judged by Paul Wise, MD, who serves as general surgery residency program director.

Four interns placed in the top five at the WISE Top Gun competition this year. In the showdown for the top three were Natty Doilicho, MD (PGY-1), Christopher Noda, MD (PGY-2), Nahom Seyoum, MD (PGY-1), Colleen Witty, MD (PGY-1) and Usman Panni, MD (PGY-3).

Lab resident Panni came out on top after placing in the top three last year.

The five competed in two laparoscopic speed tests (peg transfer using L-hooks then pattern cutting) to narrow the field to the top three. After a close contest, the top three were announced and Doilicho, Witty and Panni moved on to the final round. 

The final round of Top Gun was an intracorporeal restricted space knot-tying timed challenge. Each station was fitted with a suturing foam set behind a narrow opening to simulate intracorporeal knot-tying. Doilicho was the runner-up and Witty placed third. 

“It’s definitely a motivating factor to have an event to work towards for honing our laparoscopic skills, especially with the L-hooks,” says Witty. “As interns, we work to get these skills down so that when we do get the chance to operate on patients it’s comforting to know that you have put in that due diligence.” 

“It’s a lot of fun among the competition, and whether we placed or not,” says Doilicho. “I think we experienced what the event intended, which is to understand the timely nature of surgery.” He adds, “Dr. Panni’s experience was useful as he mentored us in preparation. Top Gun gives you an occasion to plan for, which makes skills labs at WISE so important for preparation.” Doilicho adds, “I definitely look forward to continuing to get more work in on fundamentals of surgery before next year’s showdown.” 

The interns hope to give Panni a run for his money next year but wish him luck at the SAGES Top Gun later this spring.

  • Highlights from 2024 WISE Top Gun competition.
  • Highlights from 2024 WISE Top Gun competition.
  • Highlights from 2024 WISE Top Gun competition.

Panni’s victory comes after placing in the top three at last year’s WISE Top Gun competition. For the past three years, general surgery resident Corbin Frye, MD, has won the WISE and SAGES Top Gun competitions. Frye did not compete this year, giving new residents the opportunity to challenge for the national title.  

“Dr. Frye’s scheduled absence confirmed a new winner will be going to SAGES this year,” says Wise, who is also vice chair for education in the Department of Surgery. 

“I’m so excited, following in Corbin’s footsteps is a big deal,” says Panni of his Top Gun victory. “It took me a while and a bit of practice, but I won.” Panni encourages the competitors to continue working hard sharpening their laparoscopic skills. “I look forward to their friendly competition next year, and of course I’m available for mentorship and to help guide the new interns next year.” 

Panni says he is grateful to have a facility where he can practice surgical skills, praising the WISE lab for offering the opportunity for daily practice. 

“Congratulations to all the participants,” says Panni. “I’m proud of all the interns and residents who participated, and I’m certain next year many of them will be giving me a run for my money.” 

Panni will be competing in Cleveland, Ohio at the national SAGES 2024 Top Gun competition this April.