Technology and robotics still transforming medicine
Technology is taking over in surgical medicine and leads the next wave of discovery, says a visiting expert on surgical robotics and innovation.
Ex-patriot Kiwi, Dr Catherine Mohr is a University of Auckland Hood Fellow, and will be talking on ‘The rise of the Bots: Robots, Surgeons and Disruptive Technology’ at the University of Auckland on Wednesday (22 October).
Surgery has changed rapidly in the last 10 years with the advent of surgical robots and the increase in minimally invasive surgical techniques.
“One of the problems we have right now is that we find cancers late, and so have to take the person apart and put them back together again to take out the cancers and give them functionality back – essentially doing salvage instead of being able to intervene really early,” says Dr Mohr.
“Surgery has been at the ‘hands on humans’ scale of therapies for millennia. Now and in the future, innovations mean we will be able to do minimally invasive surgery like, identifying at a cellular level where cancer cells are located and remove the bad cells while leaving the good cells with minimal intervention. In for example; taking out cancer cells from around a neurovascular bundle while leaving it entirely intact.”
Dr Mohr says the focus will increasingly be on preventative medicine, such as finding and removing cancers at a much earlier stage. Another example is the discovery and training of dogs that can smell cancer on the breath of patients.
“This is much more sensitive than other screening tests that we have developed right now, so this means there are chemical signals in the patients’ breath, and if we can decode that, we can get to the point where we can make a machine even more sensitive than a dog’s nose (to find cancer).”
This year’s ‘World Class New Zealand Award’ winner, Dr Mohr is Vice President of Medical Research at Intuitive Surgical, where she evaluates new technologies for incorporation into the next generation of surgical robots.
She is also a consulting Assistant Professor in the department of Surgery at Stanford School of Medicine and on the Medicine and Robotics Faculty at Singularity University.
She has published numerous scientific papers, is the recipient of multiple awards and a frequent speaker at national and international conferences.
Dr Mohr was born in Dunedin, leaving New Zealand for the USA with her parents as a child. She grew up in Boston and has mostly worked in California, but has always retained her New Zealand citizenship and strong connection to this country.
She received her Bachelor and later Master of Science degrees in mechanical engineering from MIT, and her Doctor of Medicine from Stanford University School of Medicine. She serves as scientific advisor to several start-up companies in Silicon Valley as well as government technology development programmes and start-ups in her native New Zealand.
Her public lecture, on ‘The rise of the Bots: Robots, Surgeons and Disruptive Technology’ is on Wednesday 22 October at 6.30pm, at the University of Auckland’s Fisher and Paykel Appliances Auditorium, in the Owen G Glenn Building at the City Campus.