Groundbreaking 'operating theatre in a box' medical student from Lancaster announced as finalist in home surgical skills competition

A medical student from Lancaster has been announced a regional finalist of the prestigious Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh Surgical Skills competition, which for the first time is testing the talents of future medical professionals over a video link using innovative lifelike replica bodyparts.

Friday, 20th August 2021, 12:30 pm

Maria Dobrzycka is one of 40 finalists to make it through after completing a number of surgical tasks at home which were filmed on their mobile for senior surgeons to assess.

The event, which aims to find the UK and Ireland’s best undergraduate surgical talent, is in its sixth year and has been substantially revised in light of the pandemic. RCSEd partnered with artificial bodypart manufacturer OrganLike and medical technology leader Medtronic in order to create a special “surgical theatre in a box”, simulating as closely as possible the in-person conditions used in the traditional format of the competition.

Students first registered for the competition and completed a questionnaire which helped to determine who was sent a box. More than 1,390 students registered for the competition. Out of 951 students who completed the questionnaire, 421 made it through to the next stage.

Maria Dobrzycka, a medical student from Lancaster announced as a finalist in a home surgical skills competition.

Students were then sent a competition box to their homes, which comprised instruments, a mobile phone/iPad holder and 3D printed bio-synthetic tissue from Organlike, which mimics human tissue.

To help the participants practice, students were able to use Medtronic’s Touch SurgeryTM mobile app, a cloud solution for surgical videos, designed to securely access and share videos.

If Maria is crowned the winner of the competition, they will win a 'Medtronic Experience' supplied by the competition sponsor, offering an incredible opportunity to gain hands on experience with the latest surgical equipment, as well as a trophy.

All participants in the competition also receive a certificate of participation and two years’ affiliation with The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.

Professor Angus Watson, Member of the RSCEd Council and organiser of the Surgical Skills competition, said: “The pandemic meant we had to completely rethink the format of the competition and has actually provided us with the opportunity to reach a wider pool of medical students, as well as leading to the creation of this fantastic kit which has allowed students to practise basic surgical skills at home.

“We wanted to widen the competition out to all medical students in a bid to encourage more students into the surgical profession and to also help convey the message that basic surgical skills are important for so many medical professions aside from those considering a surgical career.

“Widening the competition out has had a fantastic impact on the number of students we’ve had apply.

“We are extremely proud of our new format and the box has taken a great deal of planning. Every element has been carefully considered right down to its sustainability – even the box itself is made from sustainable wood and packaging.

“The boxes will also have a long-lasting legacy well after we announce our winner. We are now sending the boxes to African countries in order to help train future surgeons overseas.”

Vanessa Lowe, Business Unit Director, Medtronic UK & Ireland Surgical Innovations said: "We’re delighted to continue to sponsor the RCSEd’s competition and to have worked closely with them in developing this revolutionary box.”

"Healthcare professionals are lifelong learners and Medtronic is passionate about investing in healthcare education. This ethos is especially pertinent now as the pandemic has had a huge impact on medical students and their ability to gain hands on experience.”

“The competition participants had access to equipment supplied by us as well as our Touch SurgeryTM app which students used in order to upload their videos.”

“We look forward to presenting the overall winner with a fantastic prize.”

OrganLike founder Professor Will Shu said: “We are so proud of our lifelike organs and tissue and are delighted that we can help the Royal College undertake its prestigious competition in a year when it would have been impossible to bring students together.

“Our materials are specifically designed to help surgical trainees, wherever they may be, have access to the same experiences as those who work with cadavers, but for a fraction of the cost and with significantly lower use of chemicals and disinfectants.

“We’re looking forward to working with the Royal College on future competitions so as allow even wider access and encourage a broader group of students into the surgical profession.”

To find out more about the Surgical Skills Competition, visit the website here or follow on social media via #SurgicalSkillsComp.