General surgeon Walter Rose never imagined a future when robots would help perform surgery when he graduated from McCallie School in 1976. So to inspire the next generation of surgeons, he called on a special teaching assistant: the $2 million da Vinci Surgical System.
"It's hard not to be interested in a bionic robot, especially when you're a teenager," said Rose, who normally uses the robot to assist in performing laparoscopic surgery at CHI Memorial Hospital in Chattanooga. But on Thursday, he visited McCallie to teach students about robotic surgery and guide them through simulations using the machine.
Sitting behind a control panel, students used a combination of high-definition imaging and wrist-like instruments to remotely manipulate the robot's four "arms."
"Insane," "trippy" and "super cool" were some of the words 11th-grader Courtlandt Buzzini used to describe the experience.
"People might get a little scared that machines are taking over, but it's important to realize it's doctors using the machines," Buzzini said. "It's less movement in the [patient's] body, so you're not as sore when you wake and there's not more damage."
Seventh-grader Kohen Kilburn, who was practicing grabbing two small rings with the instruments, said controlling the robot was more difficult than expected.
"The depth perception, for me, was the biggest problem. It was kind of hard for me to know where everything was," Kilburn said. "I learned that maybe you need a bit more patience."
Rose said he isn't trying to convince everyone to be a physician, but spark ideas and present possibilities for the students.
"If they're going to be a biomedical engineer, if they're going to be an IT person, develop artificial intelligence, the medical arts, sciences it's just trying to stimulate that interest," he said. "As I was growing up, I was profoundly influenced by, coincidentally, two surgeons."
Contact staff writer Elizabeth Fite at email@example.com or 423-757-6673.