LCSR Seminar: Timothy Kowalewski “Measuring Surgical Skill: Crowds, Robots, and Beyond”

April 20, 2016 @ 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
B17 Hackerman Hall


For over a decade surgical educators have called for objective, quantitative methods to measure surgical skill. To date, no satisfactory method exists that is simultaneously accurate, scalable, and generalizable. That is, a method whose scores correlate with patient outcomes, can scale to cope with 51 million annual surgeries in the United States, and generalize across the diversity surgical procedures or specialties. This talk will review the promising results of exploiting crowdsourcing techniques to meet this need. The talk will also survey the limitations of this approach, fundamental problems in establishing ground truth for surgical skill evaluation, and steps to exploit surgical robotics data. The talk will conclude by proposing some future robotic approaches that may obviate the need for surgeons to master complex technical skills in the first place.



Dr. Kowalewski completed his PhD in electrical engineering for “quantitative surgical skill evaluation” at the University of Washington’s Biorobotics lab. This work was recognized with a best doctoral candidate award at the American College of Surgeons AEI Consortium on Surgical Robotics and Simulation. He was also a research scientist at DARPA’s “Traumapod: Operating room of the future” project. He has helped commercialize his PhD work for quantitative skill evaluation hardware (Simulab Corp., Seattle, WA) and also pioneered the use of crowdsourcing for highvolume assessment of surgical skills and cofounded CSATS Inc, Seattle, WA to make these methods available to modern healthcare. This work has been published in JAMA Surgery and formally adopted by the American Urological Association for educational and certification needs. In 2012 he started the Medical Robotics and Devices Lab at the University of Minnesota, Mechanical Engineering department where he is currently an Assistant Professor.