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Robotic Cancer Surgery Comes to Classroom

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Sarasota Herald-Tribune article
ABC 7 video & article


Students “prep” for cutting edge fieldtrip into the operating room

E.R.SARASOTA, Fla. (April 23, 2012) – For the first time, students enrolled in Venice High School’s “Medical Academy” will have a unique opportunity to observe a minimally invasive robotic surgery (partial gastrectomy) and interact with the surgical team – live and in real time – just as if they were in the operating room. A collaborative education project between Sarasota County Public Schools and the region’s public hospital Sarasota Memorial Health Care System, the virtual field trip will utilize video-conferencing technology, high speed Internet and the hospital’s integrated operating room cameras and imaging systems to virtually link the OR to the classroom.

The e-fieldtrip will allow students to view the entire surgery from multiple cameras and angles inside the operating room – and even peer inside the patient’s body. Surgical cameras utilized by Sarasota Memorial’s da Vinci-S Surgical System will provide live-streamed video of miniature surgical tools remote controlled by Sarasota Memorial General Surgeon John Nora, MD, as he works to remove a cancerous lesion from a patient’s stomach. Dr. Nora and the robotic surgical team will narrate key steps during the procedure, answer live questions from the students and pepper the class with facts about cancer and the digestive system. (Did you know that stomach acid is a million times more acidic than drinking water?)

As the nation struggles to emerge from the recession, cutting back on field trips has become a growing trend. During the last school year (2010-2011), one-third of districts nationwide eliminated field trips – and 43.2 percent reported considering it for 2012-13, according to the American Association of School Administrators. Virtual field trips are a new, less expensive way to reach web savvy students, but most that are available today are neither live nor interactive. For example, students may “visit” the Grand Canyon using Google Earth, or connect with a class in England to hear a speaker from Parliament or send streaming video of a trip to the zoo to students who could not attend in person.

In this virtual field trip – a first for both the hospital and local school district – officials worked together to customize a meaningful learning experience that builds upon their current lesson plans. Students participating in the virtual field trip have been studying human body systems this year, and this week are wrapping up a lesson on the digestive system.

“Virtual field trips won’t ever take the place of real, get-on-the-bus, hands-on field trips,” said Carole Lash, director of the Venice High School Medical Academy. “But in cases like this, where they might never have the opportunity to step through an operating room door, the virtual experience is one students might never get otherwise.”

Post-surgery classroom activities slated to follow in the next few days include investigating the risks and benefits of minimally invasive surgery, compared to traditional surgery, and laboratory lessons that allow students to observe the function of their own stomach and how it interacts with other organs in the body.


Event Details

When: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 (11am-2pm). The virtual field trip presents a timely wrap-up for a series of lessons on health & anatomy that teacher Carole Lash covered with 9-12th grade students in the Medical Academy at Venice High School this year.

Where: Coverage opportunities are available at both Sarasota Memorial Hospital, 1700 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, Fla., AND Venice High School, 1 Indian Ave., Venice, Fla.

Media RSVP: Call Kim Savage, Sarasota Memorial Media Relations: (941) 893-7649 for information or to RSVP. Media representatives are welcome to attend the virtual field trip at Venice High School; access to Sarasota Memorial’s operating rooms must be scheduled in advance and will be available on a limited basis (photos and video from the OR will be available). Instructions/access to the school should be arranged through Sarasota County Schools Communications Specialist Scott Ferguson / (941) 539-6938.

Live Twitter/Facebook feed: The field trip will be tweeted live from the school and the operating room under the hashtag (#smhvhs) and streamed live on Sarasota Memorial’s Facebook page (

About Sarasota Memorial Health Care System
Sarasota Memorial Health Care System is a regional referral center offering Southwest Florida’s greatest breadth and depth of inpatient, outpatient and extended care services, with more than 800,000 patient visits a year. One of the 10 largest public hospitals in America, Sarasota Memorial’s 806-bed acute care hospital has been recognized repeatedly as one of the nation’s largest, safest and best, with superior patient outcomes and a complete continuum of outpatient services– from urgent care walk-in clinics and physician groups, laboratory and diagnostic imaging centers, to home health and skilled nursing & rehabilitation. Sarasota Memorial is the only hospital in the Suncoast region (Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte and DeSoto counties) ever to make HealthGrades’ 50 best list. For information, visit:

About Sarasota County Schools
The Sarasota County School District is designated as an “A” district by the Florida Department of Education. It is ranked fourth highest in scores in Florida’s standardized tests among the state’s 67 school districts. Sixty-five percent of the county’s public school teachers hold a master’s degree or higher, compared to a 41 percent state average. The 55 public schools in Sarasota County serve all educational needs and support lifelong learning from pre-kindergarten to adult enrichment. Schools include traditional K-12 schools, charter schools, two schools for students with special needs, a school for intellectually gifted students, an academy for struggling students in grades 8-10, a technical high school and an institute that offers career training for high school students and adults. Several specialized programs are offered at schools throughout the county; more information is available at

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