Dalai Lama Tours Center for the Future of Surgery

June 16, 2017 | Lindsay Morgan

On Saturday June 17, 2017, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet toured UC San Diego's Center for the Future of Surgery (CFS) and Simulation Training Center, where he observed an array of low- and high-tech demonstrations of surgical devices ranging from laparoscopic to robotic surgery. The Dalai Lama was in the midst of a West Coast tour that included speaking at the UCSD commencement ceremony, and a visit to the San Diego Zoo with San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

The Center for the Future of Surgery is a state-of-the-art facility situated in the Medical Education and Telemedicine Building in La Jolla, that offers surgical simulation training and is dedicated to educating surgeons and medical students, as well as developing new surgical technology, procedures and techniques. Under the leadership of director, Santiago Horgan, MD, and Surgery Department Chair, Bryan Clary, MD, the center strives to continually improve and expand surgery options using emerging technology so that patients experience less pain and achieve better outcomes.

Since opening in 2011, the CFS has trained over 20,000 participants from a wide array of medical professionals, including surgeons in practice, surgical residents, medical students, nurses, and other allied health professionals.  In 2016, the center trained over 3,500 participants: more than 1,300 surgeons in practice, 570 surgical residents, 675 medical students, and over 200 nursing staff.

The CFS recently received a 3-year reaccreditation as a level 1 ACS training center, a recognition only obtained by a few.

The Dalai Lama Takes a Tour

The Dalai Lama's tour was arranged by UCSD's Office of the Chancellor and led by Shanglei (Shawn) Liu, a research resident, on his 5th year of a general surgery residency at UCSD. Liu has served as a research resident under Dr. Horgan. Liu's research includes the development of new surgical technology, minimally invasive surgery, colorectal surgery, as well as overseeing the daily research functions at the CFS. (Liu also completed a Masters in Medical Device Engineering, as part of an increased emphasis in the Department on expanding the interactions between surgeons and engineers residing in the Jacobs School of Engineering.)

During the tour, multiple mock surgical operating stations were set up to demonstrate the newest technologies in surgery and surgical education. This included laparoscopic training equipment, virtual reality training simulators, augmented reality CPR trainers, automated tissue staplers, and the surgery robot. The Dali Lama was introduced to and offered the opportunity to try out first hand the tools that revolutionized modern surgery.

The Dalai Lama was particularly interested in the CFS's community outreach work. This includes training residents and medical students both in and out of UCSD, hosting education panels for pre-med college students, and giving education courses for low-income family high school students interested in the healthcare field. Many of these students were offered extended research opportunities with the CFS to cultivate their interests.

Also in attendance were UCSD Chancellor Pradeep Khosla; Vice Chancellor and Dean of the School of Medicine, Dr. David Brenner; and Dean of Medical Education, Dr. Maria Savoia.  Dr. Garth Jacobsen MD, Shawn Liu, and Nancy Roberts represented the CFS, and Dr. Preetham Suresh, Director of the Simulation Training Center and technician Derek Dudek represented the Simulation Center.  

At the close of the tour, the Dalai Lama praised the work of the CFS, highlighting the importance of the work done reaching out to the future generation of physicians and healthcare professionals.  Praising the activity at the CFS as "very important work" on multiple occasions, the Dalai Lama concluded his visit thanking everyone for their hospitality and offered his blessings to the future.

Says Liu: "It was an honor to meet the Dalai Lama show him the advances of modern surgery as well as the work we do to train future surgeons. It is amazing how the Dalai Lama took time from his exhausting travel schedule to come see all the work we do at the CFS."