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The federal government has given surgeons at East Carolina University and four other hospitals the green light to use the nation’s first robotic surgical device, a three-armed assistant named
“da Vinci.”
Last month, the da Vinci Surgical System became the first surgical robot to win Food and Drug Administration approval, allowing the machine to help surgeons more easily perform certain operations through tiny cuts in the abdomen, known as laparoscopic surgery.
The robot also is being tested on trickier surgeries, including heart bypasses and heart valve replacements performed through three incisions each about the diameter of a pencil.
In May, East Carolina surgeons used the robot to perform total heart valve surgery, one of the first such procedures in history.
And FDA experts say the robot’s ability to perform precise movements in tiny spaces — without trembling like a tired surgeon might — could one day allow better microsurgery, such as for nerve-related operations.
“This system is the first step in the development of new robotic technology that eventually could change the practice of surgery,” says FDA Commissioner Jane Henney.
The camera in da Vinci uses multiple lenses to provide a three-dimensional image. The robotic arms replace those foot-long scalpels, and have a “wrist” built in for more humanlike flexibility. The arms hold specially designed surgical instruments that mimic movement of the surgeon’s hands as he or she operates the robot’s joysticks from a computer next to the operating table.
“The computer controls the instruments as if your fingers are grasping the very tip,” a sensation doctors usually get only in open surgery, explains Dr. Barry Gardiner of the San Ramon Regional Medical Center, who led  trials of the robot.
Five hospitals are trained to use the da Vinci now: Henrico Doctors Hospital in Richmond, Va.; Baylor Medical Center in Houston; Ohio State University in Columbus; East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C.; and San Ramon Regional Medical Center in California.For  information, access the Web  site <>.

The Art Institutes International Minnesota has received approval from the Accrediting Council for Indepen-dent Colleges and Schools to offer bachelor’s degrees in graphic advertising, interior design, media arts and animation and Internet marketing and advertising.  The school, established in 1996 as one of The Art Institutes, received state approval to offer bachelor’s level programs in April.
The Art Institutes International Minnesota is one of a system of 18 schools located nationwide, providing an important source of design, media arts, fashion and culinary professionals. For more information, contact Anjila Kozel at (612) 332-3361, Ext. 134.

The Pennsylvania College of Optometry has announced that it is the first college in the nation to offer a professional doctorate program in audiology. Although 10 other institutions offer the degree, it is administered primarily through their graduate education divisions.  Pennsylvania College’s program will be based on a strong biomedical curriculum, similar to programs for physicians, dentists and optometrists.
The college will launch the degree in two phases. The first step is a fully accredited distance-education program that will allow licensed, experienced audiologists an opportunity to earn the degree. Degree candidates will have unlimited access to 45 different courses.  The second phase, a four-year residential program, is expected to start accepting students in fall 2001. The program will provide audiologists with the knowledge necessary to prevent, diagnose, treat and manage hearing and balance disorders. For more information, contact Leza Raffel at (215) 884-6499.     

— Compiled by Arwen Adams

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A New Track: Fostering Diversity and Equity in Athletics
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