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WISE Education Fellow Gerull Awarded Intuitive Surgical Grant

WISE fellow Will Gerull with surgical robot

Washington University recently received a $75,000 grant from Intuitive Surgical to support the research of Will Gerull, MD, as he investigates how robotic learning can be used to enhance surgical training during his time as ACS-AEI Education Fellow at the Washington University Institute for Surgical Education (WISE).

Intuitive Surgical, maker of the da Vinci surgical systems, seeks to support and facilitate innovation within the field of minimally invasive surgery. Intuitive Technology Research Grants are awarded on a competitive basis to applicants who endeavor to conduct compelling research utilizing robotic technology to address clinically-relevant technology development. Gerull’s proposal, entitled “Utilization of objective performance indicators from da Vinci general surgery procedures to assess clinical performance and guide trainee progression,” was awarded the maximum amount of funding available to investigate the use of intraoperative robotic metrics to improve trainee education.

WISE utilizes a wide array of innovative resources – da Vinci robots included – in order to prepare the next generation of surgeons and medical professionals for a medical landscape currently being shaped by innovations in the minimally invasive field. WISE serves both as a training center and certification center for medical professionals of all disciplines and levels and is certified as a Level 1 Accredited Education Institute by the American College of Surgeons.

“The amount of resources WISE has is unmatched, as well as the opportunities we have to learn here,” Gerull says. “We have some great technology and incredible staff with a wealth of knowledge.”

Gerull, originally from Puyallup, Washington, discovered an interest in surgical education during his undergraduate years at the University of Washington in Seattle while studying biomedical engineering and working in a simulation center. Gerull, currently a general surgery lab resident, has been involved at WISE since he was a medical student, and his appointment as WISE Education Fellow in combination with grant funding will allow him to delve deeper into his interests and potentially uncover remarkable discoveries to change the face of surgical education.

In his new research endeavors, Gerull will investigate ways to utilize technological aspects of robotic surgery to help contribute to higher quality trainee education and improved feedback.

“In a live operative setting, everything the surgeon does is automatically recorded in terms of the movements and different metrics. That’s something that’s really unique to robotic surgery,” Gerull says. “Our goal is to create benchmarks of the metrics we uncover. We can then use those benchmarks provide objective, automatic feedback on trainee performances and identify areas to work on.”

From the very start of his medical education, teaching has remained at the forefront of Gerull’s passions in medicine. He looks forward to the new ways he will contribute to the education of residents and other learners in WISE during his time as an education fellow.

“I’m most excited about developing and leading new surgical simulations for the residents,” he says. “I enjoy helping residents improve on tasks right in front of them and seeing their progress on skills, which translates directly to how they do in the clinical realm.”

WISE fellow Will Gerull during simulation training exercise

Gerull looks to his mentor WISE Director Michael Awad, MD, PhD, as an important influence during his time as a resident and in the WISE lab. Awad himself has conducted prolific funded research leading to reform and improvement of surgical education on a national level.

“Dr. Awad has definitely been a major mentor for me,” says Gerull. “He sets a great example of how to run the center, get funding, and create opportunities for learners of all levels and backgrounds to come here.”

Upon completing his fellowship year, Gerull will return to his clinical work to finish the last two years of his residency. He ambition is to continue his work both as a minimally invasive surgeon and dedicated educator.

“Looking down the road, I’m excited to pursue a minimally invasive surgery fellowship and to be in an academic center where I can continue to be involved in resident and medical student education,” he says. “Hopefully I’ll be running a simulation center one day.”

Washington University Institute for Surgical Education

WISE is dedicated to promoting the education of health care professionals, advancing the field of surgical education through educational research and improving the welfare of the greater patient community. To learn more about education and certification opportunities at the WISE Center, visit the link below: