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Special Guest Robot at 'Brainworks' to Show Middle Schoolers How Doctors Can Monitor Patients From a Distance

Los Angeles - March 7, 2013 – A robotic assistant will be a special guest at the March 11 Brainworks program for 130 seventh- and eighth-graders. Dependable, focused and able to perform tasks at any time, 24 hours a day, "Robot-Doc" has become a key member of the Neuroscience Critical Care Unit.

The InTouch Health RP-7i robot enables several doctors to teleconference, bringing them together by “remote presence" to collaborate in the Critical Care Unit. Students attending Brainworks – part of Cedars-Sinai’s commemoration of Brain Awareness Week March 11 to 17 – will be able to drive and interact with the RP-7i and learn more about these devices from neurointensive care experts and a representative of InTouch Health.

"Brainworks came about because we wanted to expose as many young minds as possible to how exciting science is and especially how fascinating the brain is," said Keith L. Black, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Neurosurgery, who started the program in 1998.

Black, director of the Maxine Dunitz Neurosurgical Institute, director of the Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. Brain Tumor Center and the Ruth and Lawrence Harvey Chair in Neuroscience, was encouraged by his parents to question and explore. He began visiting laboratories at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland when he was in eighth grade and wrote an award-winning research paper at age 17.

Brainworks attendees, selected by teachers for interest and achievement in science, will get hands-on experience as they visit interactive areas such as:

  • A virtual surgery station with 3-D imaging and microscope with phantom skull.
  • A surgical instrumentation station with tools used in the operating room.
  • A neuropathology station with real sheep brains and microscope slides of various tumor types.
  • A rehabilitation and healing station where students learn what it’s like to apply and receive therapy.
  • A suture station that gives students the chance to practice stitching.
  • A brain and spine instrumentation station showing some of the hardware used in treatment.
  • A research station where students can see and participate in DNA, tumor and laser experiments.

Students will learn about healthcare and research careers and see presentations on translational medicine – how research advances from laboratories to patient care – and rehabilitation.

And they will meet the robot. Driven and manipulated from a computer interface and joystick, and equipped with a high-definition monitor, speakers and a microphone, Robot-Doc allows doctors to see, hear and interact with patients and on-site staff in real time. Specially designed for medical settings, it has multiple ports for plugging in instruments and devices that enable doctors to view a patient’s vital signs and other diagnostic and monitoring information.

"The robot is a great communications tool. We use it as a way to connect with the patient, family and other staff members and have group discussions," said Wengui Yu, MD, PhD, director of the Neuroscience Critical Care Unit. “It almost makes it possible for us to be two places at the same time, so if we need a specialist on the unit, even if they are not here physically, they can be here ‘professionally’ to provide all their expertise for the patient. The robot often is used in the late evenings, around 10 p.m., when some of the neurointensivists want to see every single patient one more time to make sure everyone is taken care of and there are no issues that need to be addressed."

In addition to Brainworks, the Department of Neurosurgery presents an educational program on stem cell research for high school students, offers undergraduate and graduate scholarships through the Pauletta and Denzel Washington Family Gifted Scholars Program in Neuroscience, and has a Neurosurgery Residency Training Program, as well as an Endovascular Neurosurgery Fellowship Program and a Spine Fellowship Program.

Brainworks is sponsored by Integra Life Sciences Corporation, Stryker and DePuy Synthes.