Touch Surgery: The Flight Simulator of Medical Operations

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At the BDL Accelerate 2014 two-day conference, plastic surgeon Dr. Jean Nehme gave a presentation about an app he co-founded: Touch Surgery. By visually showing doctors (and med students) surgeries step-by-step, they can learn about the process through interactive diagrams of a digital patient rather than read it from a book, wait for a cadaver, or practice on a living patient. It also allows for the patients to understand procedures and what would happen to them if they were to undergo a surgery of some kind. After all, when you have all the information available on the internet, you end up going to Google for medical answers…which is a huge mistake. Touch Surgery provides you with accurate information from credible sources and can show you what will happen by mapping out the entire operation in detail.

It’s got two phases: learning and testing. Learning comes with instructions as the user is taught a procedure with 3D simulations and testing comes without the instructions. And get this, the app is for FREE because, as Dr. Nehme put it, this is the age of the knowledge economy and information should be open and shared.

This is a great use of technology and I can imagine many pre-med students (and med students) using this as a new way to review material and train your brain. When it comes to operating, Dr. Nehme said, “it’s about 75% decision making and 25% technical skill.” The interactive method enables a physician a chance to practice and, thus, be able to operate without having to waste precious time and energy figuring out what the next step is. You eliminate the decision-making pauses and increase efficiency without using up physical resources or risking anyone’s life. The app also indicates things to look out for when someone’s under the knife (like important arteries).

Clearly, this doesn’t rule out shadowing and actual rounds at the hospital. All surgeons need to learn technique and IRL skills. Plus, not all medical situations are predictable and not all patients have a 3D model’s anatomy. There are unexpected complications and specifics that go into each case; however, Touch Surgery is still an excellent app to use when learning the ABC’s of an appendectomy, for example.

THE EXPERTISE
The app is created by practicing surgeons so you know it’s got the doctor’s seal of approval. Since it’s an app for smartphones, it can constantly be updated with new discoveries, experiences from numerous sources, and techniques meaning that it will be cutting edge (no pun intended), unlike an old textbook or an outdated resident. The procedures are downloadable so the possibilities are endless in terms of variety and inventory.

TEAMING UP WITH OCULUS RIFT
The learning isn’t restricted to your fingertips. There are plans to incorporate Oculus Rift headsets into the existing app’s functionality. The virtual reality device would allow for users to enter an operating room and perform a surgery as if it were actually happening. #nerdilicious

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TEDxBeirut 2014 Series: Dima Boulad of Beirut Green Project

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“The conversation began 4 years ago,” says Dima Boulad of Beirut Green Project, an NGO that focuses on public green spaces in the literal sense – not a green lifestyle that involves recycling, but rather the lack of green parks in our urban landscape. After carrying out public interventions highlighting the need for public green spaces, it was clear that a movement should be formed and thus, the BGP was born. The team came together gradually in parallel with the planning efforts of new interventions.

When it comes to making an impact, BGP uses more of a guerilla strategy. “It’s much more efficient to start from the bottom and create small change on a one-to-one scale that will spread from one person to the next,” says Dima. Rather than going straight to the top and trying to behead the hierarchical monster, using baby steps to make the cause stronger is more effective. “It’s a longer process for sure, but this is how real change can happen.” Working with the system takes time but is advisable for long-term change. However, when there is a violent assault against your rights occurring, you need to take action in an unconventional way. BGP hasn’t used an aggressive approach with municipalities and, as a result, their ideas are not rejected and the officials are open to discussions on new initiatives. Nadim Abou Rizk, Vice President of the Beirut Municipal Council, has been cooperative with BGP efforts and is one of the most concerned members when it comes to the parks of Beirut.

All funds needed for their efforts have been from their own pockets or dependent on sponsorships and donated services. A partnership between BGP and WonderEight formed after AUB’s Talk20. WonderEight, an environmentally-friendly design studio based in Beirut, created their identity, guide, and additional design elements as a pro-bono company CSR project. Such community-based collaborations are what our country needs to get these types of activities off the ground: separate entities coming together for one goal for the common good of the society as a whole.

“For example, an NGO can propose a space by conducting a study of a tiny area in a neighborhood that has 3 schools – a place that is in need of a space where kids can relax on their way home from school. The municipality can then get the area ready and clear the location, then a private company comes and funds the remodeling and planting. The neighborhood people can come and participate, creating a sense of ownership of spaces. This allows people to feel like it’s their space.”

Dima believes that once you create a sense of ownership with these spaces, people will protect and respect them. By including the people in the process from the start, the Municipality will be giving citizens what they want and the people, in turn, will want to preserve what they have had a part in creating.

When discussing Horsh Beirut and the leading rumor as to why it remains closed,* it’s a bit like the logic that claims abstinence is the best contraceptive. You can’t cut people off from the park claiming that people do not know how to respect public green spaces yet expect them to simultaneously learn park culture without any parks to do so in. How do you learn how to treat a park if you don’t have one to begin with?

There are other rumored reasons as to why the Horsh is still closed ranging from the need for proper security guards, caretakers, and maintenance teams to it being located in a sensitive spot bridging neighborhoods of varying religious beliefs. The latter reason is the most infuriating in both Dima’s and my opinion. It should be a reason for opening the park rather than keeping it closed because it will blur the borders and allow people to socialize sans sect. Dima says, “they’re afraid that it will create conflict and tension. On the contrary, there is conflict and tension because there is no public space. If we had spaces, people would mingle and that fear of the other would go away.”

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Jesuit Garden, Geitawi – Ashrafieh

With the many urban developments happening in our city, we cannot always blame the developers and investors. Dalieh, Ramlet el Baida, Fouad Boutros Highway. All of these developments can be halted and revisited if we, as a combined force, stand up and say no. The Jesuit Garden in Geitawi was a small victory that wasn’t publicized enough. We all heard about its impending conversion into a parking lot; however, we did not hear about how that plan was thwarted once the neighborhood came together to say no. This is evidence that the people can make a difference when they want to. We should not use “Eh, this is Lebanon” as an excuse for being passive. You must hold others accountable for violations of your rights as Lebanese citizens.

“If every person took one small step without thinking about whether or not it was making a difference, together it will create something. You have to look at the whole picture. It’s rare to see the results immediately. Each person has to do their small part and eventually it will create change.”

Up next for BGP is printing and distributing the Beirut Green Guide while educating schools about public green spaces and equipping students with their own copies of the Guide in order to keep the message going. For this month though, Dima has been invited to speak at Arq Futuro‘s Parks of Brazil event in Sao Paolo and will be touring South America for the next few weeks to get some greenspiration, as I’d like to call it. To keep up with BGP’s developments, check out their blog and Facebook page.

*Allowing people inside Horsh Beirut will ultimately ruin it as a green space because of littering and vandalism