Room to Operate

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Read the full story by Anna Fiorentino, published in the Spring 2014 issue of Dartmouth Engineer.

Imagining what life would be like if medical technologies never advanced is not hard. “We would be dying sooner and of many more diseases if we hadn’t put money and effort into research,” says Keith Paulsen, the Robert A. Pritzker Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Thayer School of Engineering.

Keith Paulsen

Keith Paulsen, the Robert A. Pritzker Professor of Biomedical Engineering, has helped create the nation’s first surgical facility dedicated to translational research. (Photo by John Sherman)

The value of medical research is why Paulsen and Sohail Mirza, chair of Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s Department of Orthopaedics, have worked together to create the Center for Surgical Innovation (CSI), the nation’s first surgical facility dedicated to translational research.

Paulsen, CSI scientific director, and Mirza, CSI medical director, will oversee research that combines Thayer expertise in biomedical engineering, imaging, and computation with clinical expertise at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and Geisel School of Medicine—research that uses the CSI to test new approaches in the operating room, such as complex real-time image-guided surgical procedures.

The CSI mitigates a major limitation for researchers: a lack of operating room time and space for the clinical studies on animals and humans that must be carried out before any new technique or technology becomes standard practice. While various hospitals, including those affiliated with Duke and Johns Hopkins universities, have surgical centers dedicated to imaging research and innovation, the CSI is the only one where research won’t have to compete with clinical care. Completely separate from Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s busy operating rooms, the 12,000-square-foot CSI is largely free from the scheduling and financial realities that drive high-volume clinical surgical units. “The pressure to make this a profit center where patients need to get in and out won’t be prevalent,” says Paulsen.