News Stories Our Trainees Recognition WISE

Top Gun 2023

Each year, Washington University general surgery residents demonstrate their laparoscopic surgery skills in a local “Top Gun” competition at the Washington University Institute for Surgical Education (WISE). Top Gun Laparoscopic Skills & Suturing programs teach coordination and targeting skills necessary to hone excellent laparoscopic surgical techniques. Competitions occur nationwide and on the local level, and the Department of Surgery has made a tradition out of their own competition.

“The laparoscopic Top Gun competition has been a part of the Washington University general surgery residency program for several years now,” said Chief of Minimally Invasive Surgery and past president of SAGES Michael Brunt, MD. “It’s something the residents really look forward to. They’re very competitive by nature and really enjoy the program.”

Laparoscopic surgery involves making small incisions to allow surgeons to operate using small surgical instruments and cameras. WISE provides a safe and ethical simulated training environment for trainees and other medical professionals to develop the skills necessary to perform laparoscopic surgery in the clinical field. The lab offers a variety of certifications and training courses ranging from basic fundamentals to advanced virtual reality simulators. The Top Gun competition encourages trainees to practice and sharpen their skills through friendly competition.

Read More: WISE Receives ACS-AEI Reaccreditation

The competition consists of three rounds wherein residents are timed as they demonstrate a variety of fundamental laparoscopic skills. In the first two rounds, residents who complete all tasks the fastest and most accurately move on to the final third round, ending in a surprise challenge to declare the first place winner.

The first round this year tested trainees on three tasks: peg transfer, bean drop, and intracorporeal knot tying. Peg transfer involves picking up and passing a group of small plastic objects between surgical tools in each hand and dropping them onto a series of small pegs. The bean drop task tests a resident’s precision by challenging them to pick up and drop small dried beans through a tiny hole in the bottom of an upended foam cup. Intracorporeal knot tying is one of several simulations designed to assist in the development of suturing with tools inside the body.

The general surgery residents with the top five fastest times from round one this year (notably a resident from each clinical year of training, including one of this year’s interns) – Cathleen Courtney, MD, Will Gerull, MD, Chris Noda, MD, Usman Panni, MD, and defending local and national Top Gun champion, Corbin Frye, MD – then went head-to-head in the second round. The residents raced to complete a similar peg transfer task using L hook instruments, a simulated laparoscopic cautery exercise, and intracorporeal knot tying from a 90 degree angle.

Of the five, Frye, Noda and Panni continued on to the final round: a surprise game of “Operation” performed laparoscopically.

Using surgical tools, cameras and simulation stations, the top three competitors were challenged to remove as many pieces from the game board as possible within two minutes. By the end of the final round, Noda and Panni tied at 6 pieces each, and Frye had earned first place by removing an impressive 9 pieces.

The winner of the local Top Gun competition goes on to compete at the national level at the annual Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons (SAGES) meeting, where Washington University residents have a history of taking home the national title.

This year, after his victory at the local WISE competition, Frye secured his third consecutive win at the national SAGES meeting in Montreal on March 31st.

Read More: Frye Wins Top Gun at SAGES 2022

“Our residents’ success at the national competition is a testament to the program and the instruction of Dr. Awad, Dr. Wise, and the staff. They have done excellent work to integrate the fundamentals of laparoscopic surgery skills training into the residency curriculum,” said Brunt. “It’s also a tribute to the residents for practicing and developing their skills. That really is the key to performing at that level.”

Dr. Frye (center left) poses with Washington University Minimally Invasive Surgery faculty Drs. Dimou, Eckhouse, Brunt, Blatnik, Eagon, Awad and Top Gun founder Dr. James “Butch” Rosser Jr., MD (center right) following his third consecutive victory at SAGES.

“Any success that I have had in laparoscopic competitions simply wouldn’t be possible without the incredible resources and staff of the WISE lab,” said Frye. “Having spoken to many residents across the country, I know that we have one of the most advanced surgical simulation centers around. This provides the opportunity to improve our surgical skills in a safe, controlled, and low-stress environment, not too dissimilar to how a professional athlete would develop his or her craft in a practice gym. Because of the dedication and support of the faculty and staff within our Department of Surgery, we can better ourselves as surgeons both in and outside of the operating room.”

The Department of Surgery congratulates the top five winning residents and commends each participant on their dedication and performance, and congratulates Frye on his third consecutive win at SAGES.

To learn more about the General Surgery Residency at Washington University, visit the link below: