Attitude is more important than skills

Nitya Sai Soumya
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Dr. Sudhir Srivastava is the Chairman, CEO and Managing Director of the International Centre for Robotic Surgery, New Delhi. Dr. Srivastava received his medical degree from J.L.N. Medical College, Rajasthan and immigrated to the United States in 1972. He completed his cardiothoracic surgery residency at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. He spent his entire career perfecting the craft of Cardiothoracic Surgery.

Dr. Srivastava has to his credit performing several ‘world's first' surgeries like single, double, triple and quadruple vessel TECAB on a beating heart. Despite his reputation as an excellent surgeon for being able to perform complicated cardiac surgical procedures using the da Vinci robot, he yearned for something more and that was to educate surgeons across the world, his techniques and advantages of using robotic platform. So, he launched the International College of Robotic Surgery at Saint Joseph's Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. The institute was successful in its mission to train surgeons from around the world from a single location.

After a successful career in the United States, in July 2012, Dr. Srivastava joined hands with Fortis Healthcare to provide the best possible surgery for Indian patients. Through the Fortis International Centre for Robotic Surgery, he organised world-class surgeons from every surgical specialty to come on a rotational basis to Fortis Medical centres throughout India and train local Indian surgeons to proficiency. Dr.Srivastava spared his valuable time to speak to The Hindu Opportunities about Robotic Surgery in India.

Excerpts from an interview:

Please give us a brief history of robotic surgery.

Robotics was first used in surgery in the year 1985 during a brain biopsy using CT guidance. In 1992, ROBODOC was introduced to do hip replacement surgery. Finally, da Vinci surgical system was introduced which helped the surgeon perform complex surgeries. In India, I have the honour of performing the first ever-robotic surgery in the year 2002 at Escorts, New Delhi.

Share with us your first experience while performing robotic surgery.

In the year 2003, in our hospital in West Texas, USA, I performed an endoscopic bypass on a patient. He left the hospital in 23 hours after the surgery and drove from Odessa, Texas to Phoenix, which is about 800 miles away. That was a tremendous inspiration to me. The family was amazed to see that bypass is done through four small fingertip sized incisions and the patient recovered very fast.

What are the factors preventing Robotic Surgery from being integrated into medical procedures at a faster pace?

Initial capital costs and costs of robotic consumables and thus the overall cost of each procedure is high. The cost of robotic surgery is 20-30% higher than traditional surgery .This discourages patients from opting for it.

Then, robotic surgery carries a steep learning curve for surgeons and operating room teams. Surgeons hesitate to go through this learning curve in the middle of their careers.

Lack of awareness is another cause. Both physicians and patients are not informed about the potential and benefits of robotic surgery. When institutions and surgeons commit themselves to adopting robotic technology, the adoption will be must faster, as witnessed by the global growth of robotic surgery procedures.

Give us some details about robotic surgery training available in India.

International Centre for Robotic Surgery, New Delhi, and World Laparoscopy Hospital, Gurgaon, provide training in robotic surgery.

A surgeon with at least 8-10 years of operative experience in conventional/ endoscopic surgery is eligible to apply for the course. The fee structure varies according to the training programme and robotic surgery teams. It may vary from Rs.1 lakh to Rs. 5 lakh, depending on the specialty, the number of people and the type of course.

How are the pay packages and other benefits for Robotic Surgeons in India?

Robotic surgery is definitely a lucrative field. In government institutes, a senior surgeon earns around Rs. 1 lakh per month. In private institutions, the pay is even higher; it all depends on the years of experience.

What are the unique skills required to succeed as a Robotic Surgeon?

Dedication, commitment and practice are what it takes to learn this advanced procedure.

More than the skill set, attitude is very important. Experienced surgeons who have mastered conventional surgery can learn and excel at using robots because they carry with them the skills and confidence required to deal with difficult situations that could arise in the procedure.

What can developments in this field mean to the country?

Development in this field means that many more patients can benefit from this approach. Once India has a pool of robotic surgery professionals, patients will not have to fly to other countries to get the best possible treatment.

Also, this will boost the existing medical tourism in India, as the service will be available here at a fraction of the cost compared to other countries.

Nitya Sai Soumya




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