Women on the Rise in Robotic Surgery

Monday, February 10, 2020

You may recall a recent news story about an all-women Delta crew that flew 120 girls in STEM programs to NASA headquarters to inspire female aviators. A similar type of movement is happening for women interested in high-tech medical fields, including robotic surgery. Large corporations, such as Intuitive Surgical, are making great strides in encouraging the engagement of women in leadership roles in robotic surgery.

In June 2019, Intuitive Surgical hosted its first-ever Women in da Vinci Surgery Symposium in San Diego. One hundred expert women who specialize in robotic surgery across all robotic surgical specialties, including urology, gynecology, gynecological oncology, general surgery, colorectal surgery, trauma surgery and thoracic surgery, were invited.

Intuitive Surgical, the company that created the da Vinci robot and leads innovation and education in robotic surgery, has placed females in leadership positions throughout its organization, including in design and engineering, sales and marketing, and executive leadership. This symposium brought Intuitive executive leadership together with female thought leaders in robotic surgery to develop strategies for advancing the role of women leadership in robotic surgery. Physicians came from a broad geographic and practice demographic, including academic, private practice and hospital-based settings.

Susan Crockett, MD, local gynecologic robotic surgeon and founder of Virtuosa Gyn, is working as a leader with Intuitive Surgical alongside local hospital systems and academic centers to create a unique training center for advanced gynecologic surgery, focusing on robotics. It will incorporate high-tech mentorship programs utilizing artificial intelligence and web-based technologies to connect young surgeons with basic robotic training to those surgeons with advanced skills.

“The idea is to train more surgeons to be able to offer more women minimally invasive surgical options,” Dr. Crockett says.

The program will utilize an apprenticeship model for post-fellowship training.

Dr. Crockett attended the Intuitive Women in da Vinci Surgery Symposium and is excited about the future for young women coming into medicine.

“My hope is that, over time, just like with the NASA aviation program, we who are already women leaders in robotic surgery can reach younger students to show them an example of what is possible, regardless of sex,” she says.