UCLA surgeon Dr. David Chen and surgical resident Dr. Justin Wagner are using Google Glass to teach hernia surgery around the world. Last month, with their help, local surgeons at a hospital in Paraguay wore Google Glass while performing surgeries to repair a common type of hernia.

The surgeries were viewed “live” via wireless streaming by a select group of leading surgeons in the United States who watched and transmitted their comments to the surgeons, who read them on the Google Glass monitor. The surgeries are also being archived for later training purposes.

Dr. Chen, assistant clinical professor of general surgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, told PNN that the teaching opportunities at this point are entirely charitable and this is part of a humanitarian effort through the nonprofit organization Hernia Repair for the Underserved.

“Doctors benefit because they can exchange information, collaborate, and teach,” Dr. Chen said. He said he gains no revenue from this, and all surgeons fund their own participation and account for their own time in the program.

Dr. Chen said that from a financial point of view, these tools could be used to teach, train and proctor surgeries in the U.S. as well, “but that is not really my interest in using the technology,” he told PNN. “I am more interested in harnessing the technology to help develop nonprofit educational projects to help train surgeons and bring the latest surgical techniques to countries with few resources.”

According to Dr. Chen, hernia repair is the most common operation performed worldwide and is also an easily teachable procedure that lends itself to being taught using technology like Google Glass. “From a global health perspective, it is as cost-effective as immunizations because it allows patients to regain function and resume work and other daily activities,” he said.

“We are one of the first to use Google Glass in teaching and training surgeons from outside a country,” said Chen. The team plans to train 15 surgeons from around the country in September. These surgeons will then become trainers to teach other surgeons at several regional hospitals for underserved patients. Similar programs will be implemented in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Ecuador this fall.

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