Virtual surgeon teacher wins prestigious NHS award

27th Jul 2018
Virtual surgeon teacher wins prestigious NHS award

.Professor Shafi Ahmed (Photo: NHS70)

Nadine Osman

Professor Shafi Ahmed dubbed ‘the virtual surgeon’ and ‘the world’s most-watched surgeon’, for his pioneering use of technology to teach during surgery has won a prestigious NHS award on July 4.

Ahmed, Consultant General, Laparoscopic and Colorectal Surgeon at Barts Health NHS Trust and Lecturer in Surgery at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, was announced as the countrywide winner of the NHS England Future NHS Award category at a special ceremony in the Palace of Westminster

Ahmed, 49, was among ten winners – selected from more than 750 nominations submitted by over 250 MPs to receive their awards to mark the NHS’s 70th birthday at a ceremony on the Palace of Westminster’s Terrace Pavilion.

Ahmed, nominated by Rushanara Ali, MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, said winning the award was: “humbling”. In 2014 he was the first surgeon to use Google Glass to aid the learning of surgical students. He transported 13,000 people from 115 countries directly into the operating theatre at The Royal London Hospital. The students were able to type questions as they watched from Ahmed’s point of view, and their queries appeared on his Google Glasses as he operated.

While trainee doctors have traditionally had to settle for looking over the shoulder of a surgeon, his use of technology has advanced learning by enabling students to position themselves anywhere and view operations from all angles.

Ahmed has also live-streamed an operation around the world using virtual reality technology to 55,000 live viewers, designed to give viewers the feeling that they are in the operating theatre. He has undertaken similar initiatives using Snapchat Spectacles which has been seen by over 2 million people.

“Technology and innovation will undoubtedly help solve some of the problems within any health system and will ultimately make healthcare and medical education more affordable, accessible and equitable around the world,” said Ahmed.

Under Ahmed’s leadership, Barts and The London was also the first medical school in the world to embed innovation and entrepreneurship into the curriculum through the introduction of the Barts X Medicine programme.

Alwen Williams, Chief Executive of Barts Health NHS Trust, praised Ahmed’s “dedication to advancing the quality and safety of healthcare”.

Vice-Principal at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Professor Steve Thornton spoke of his pride. “Through his introduction of new technology, we’ve been able to push the boundaries of medical education by offering unprecedented views of live surgical procedures, and embed innovation and entrepreneurship into our curriculum,” said Thornton.

Dr Neil Churchill OBE, Director for Experience, Participation & Equalities at NHS England, said Professor Ahmed use of technology “has personified the reach, inclusivity and innovation of the future NHS and so is a very deserving recipient of this award.”

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