Wings of excellence

The St. Gallen Symposium invites university students to seize the opportunity of becoming a ‘Leader of Tomorrow’.
The St. Gallen Symposium is the world’s premier opportunity for intergenerational debate on issues relating to management, science, politics and civil society.

Each year since 1989, the essay competition for the St. Gallen ‘Wings of Excellence Award’ offers students at Master’s level or higher throughout the world the unique chance to qualify as a ‘Leader of Tomorrow’ at the symposium, held in Switzerland in May 2012. Competing students must contribute their own visions and ideas on this year’s symposium topic: ‘Facing Risk’, with competitors choosing from the following topic clusters: ‘Detecting Risks’, ‘Risk Aversion’, ‘Emerging Risks’ and ‘Managing Risk’.

Competition submissions should be in the form of an essay, scenario, project report/proposal, multi-media presentation or an entrepreneurial concept. In introducing new approaches and unconventional ideas, the submission should be constructive, provocative or instructive, including inspiring thoughts and actions.

The authors of the 100 best contributions will be invited to attend the symposium, which will also be attended by some of the world’s foremost leaders and decision-makers.

The three most outstanding student submissions receive the St. Gallen ‘Wings of Excellence Award’, collectively endowed with 20,000 euros in prize money. An independent jury, comprised of academics, corporate executives, entrepreneurs and politicians, evaluate the submissions. The organising committee moreover covers travel and lodging costs, thus enabling students from all over the world to participate, regardless of their economic situations.

“Nowadays, there is no way you can fiddle about with surgery,” says Dr Gert-Jan Kleinrensink. And while this statement may seem like
kicking in an open door, matters used to be much different in the past. According to the Dr Kleinrensink, and anatomy professor at the
Erasmus Medical Centre, in the old days surgeons had to perform operations that they had not yet fully mastered, simply because such operations were not commonly practiced. “In order to save lives, doctors just tried to perform it,” he says. “And people were also much more forgiving towards surgeons then.”
Those days are long gone.

Surgeons must now find different ways to practice. A straight forward method is through the use of training simulation systems. The question debated last Tuesday during a meeting organised by Medical Delta, a joint venture involving the universities of Leiden, Rotterdam and Delft, was how these training systems should be designed and implemented.

Six years ago Dr Kleinrensink set up a Skills laboratory in the Erasmus Medical Centre. The lab contains a Simendo, a virtual reality trainer for simulating laparoscopic surgery developed by Delft researchers, as well as a doll – named Stan – filled with sensors anaesthetists use to practice on.
Is it possible, a neurologist in the audience asked, to simulate complications with these training systems? “That’s exactly what we do with Stan,” Dr Kleinrensink replied. “The supervisors undermine the proceedings of the
anaesthetists. Sometimes the doll dies. You can’t imagine the impact that has on the anaesthetists. The supervisors have to offer post-
traumatic counselling.”

So the anaesthetists’ doll is realistic enough, to say the least, but for many other instruments, especially those used for laparoscopic (or key-hole) surgery trainings, this is not the case.
“How can we better simulate tissue? That is one of the things we must investigate further,” says Professor Jenny Dankelman of the department of biomechanical engineering (Mechanical, Maritime and Materials Engineering).
Another question raised is how to make the simulations visually more realistic and playful?

Medical Delta’s chairman, Ted Young, a professor in quantitative imaging (Applied Sciences), laughingly asks if there is someone from Playstation in the audience: “What we’re talking about here are games. It would be more interesting to have children play surgery games than shooting games.” Dankelman agrees: “That way you’d get more young people with good skills interested in surgery. My children for instance are great in playing the Simendo game.”

At the end of the day the audience is also allowed to play in the Skills lab. With trembling hands, they stitch ivy leaves. In another room people pile up little pieces of rubber with laparoscopic instruments while watching their clumsy manoeuvres on a video screen. The handles on these types of instruments are not very practical,” Dr Kleinrensink remarks. “The handles on Nintendo or Playstation are better.”

Editor Redactie

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