Hot off the heels of a recent study linking robotic surgery to negative patient outcomes, Intuitive Surgical—the global leader in robotic-assisted, minimally invasive surgery, and manufacturer of the da Vinci® Surgical System—announced that it “awarded simulator grants to five top U.S. medical centers to advance the field of training for robotic-assisted minimally invasive surgery.” According to Intuitive’s press release, “[t]he University of Rochester Medical Center, University of Virginia School of Medicine, University of Nevada School of Medicine, University of Maryland School of Medicine and University of Miami, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center will each receive a da Vinci Surgical System Surgeon Console and Skills Simulator™ for one year to pursue novel research initiatives.”

Myriam Curet, M.D., Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer at Intuitive Surgical, is quoted as saying that through these grants, Intuitive is “positively impacting surgical robotics training and offering surgical residents and community surgeons the opportunity to hone their robotic-assisted surgical skills.”

Intuitive’s investment in physician training is an important step in improving patient outcomes and reflects well on the company. This is particularly true in light of Dr. David Samadi’s observation last month that many of the device-specific failure modes identified by plaintiffs’ counsel as “common causes” of patient injuries may in fact be attributable to surgeon inexperience.  Intuitive’s praiseworthy efforts, which according to the company are “intended to augment, not replace, existing training programs for the da Vinci Surgical Systems,” are likely to pay dividends down the road, particularly in cases where plaintiffs allege that the company had a duty to train surgeons and their staff.