Gaza’s Medical Students Watched the First VR Operation
Last Thursday, British surgeon Dr. Shafi Ahmed live-streamed the world’s first operation in virtual reality using the Google glasses that allowed students from all over the world to get the view of the operation as a doctor.
Medical staff and students in Gaza were among some of the 13,000 viewers who viewed the surgery of removing the cancerous tissues from a patient 78-years old with colon cancer at the Royal London Hospital.
Dr. Khamis Elessi, the head of the Evidence-Based Medicine unit and a neuro-rehabilitation specialist at the Islamic University of Gaza’s medical school, coordinated with Dr. Ahmed and organized a live-streamed virtual reality event of the operation at the University.
However, the virtual reality headsets that were sent to Gaza have not reached into the Strip because of the strict siege of Israel, Dr. Elessi and his team located only three virtual reality headsets owned by a private company.
Dr. Elessi said, “Due to the shortage in VR headsets, the preparation for the live streaming was stressful and the size of the event was limited, but the experience was very well-received by the students, senior academics and Ministry of Health decision makers that we invited to attend.”
Exchange of medical expertise and knowledge by using the internet is not a new thing for the medical schools of Gaza. Dr. Elessi defined how his university delivers hundreds of lectures in collaboration with the University of Oslo, which is the university to whom they are linked, through the video conference. This came because the university delegations were unable to travel on the exchange programs due to the strict siege of Israel.
Now the 10-year old strict siege imposed on the Gaza Strip has stalled the students from accessing medical training and resources or getting the education abroad in a way that the other students worldwide are. Dr. Elessi of their influence on the training of medical students of Gaza, said, “These online initiatives are a good way of challenging and breaking the siege imposed on Gaza.”
As Dr. Ahmed has confirmed with his initiative that the predictions for the virtual reality are certainly high in the medical education.
Dr. Elessi further said, “The live streaming of an operation using live 360° video technology is unprecedented and I am sure future live-streamed operations with live Q&A sessions between our students and the surgeon would go a long way.”
Osaid Alser, a medical student, said the experience of the operation in virtual reality was extraordinary. He also thanked Dr. Ahmed for making it happen.
Dr. Ahmed has recently taken the risky journey to the Gaza Strip himself on a delegation named as Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) and gave lectures on the augmented reality as a tool to support the surgical training among other things in the besieged enclave.
Dr. Ahmed said, “I’m so honored and privileged that the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank could join me last Thursday for the world’s first Virtual Reality operation and being an integral part of this world which has just become smaller.”
He stressed that the access to knowledge and the medical training should not be reserved by what resources are available and where the people live. He added, “It is a fundamental human right.”