activities AND NEWS
TestBed NewsConference & SeminarVisitors & Guests

Ecuador Project, December 2002

December 2002 saw a return to Ecuador for continued surgical and telemedicine work. The trip provided the opportunity for further validation of teleanesthesia by Drs. Merrell, Cone and Russ Hummel during four cholecystectomies performed in the Cinterandes Foundation Mobile Surgical Facility. Dr. Lynne Gehr monitored from the MITAC laboratories in Richmond, and was duly impressed with the clarity and data transmission. Dr Michael Kleeman of the Division of Urology of VCU's Department of Surgery, accompanied the team to explore the possibilities of transmission of live video feed of open urologic procedures.

In efforts to further the exposure of our projects in Ecuador, Dr. Merrell met with members of the government, press and medical communities. In a morning lecture, Dr. Merrell explained the growing role of telemedicine, with special emphasis on the test-bed operating in Ecuador. In the evening, Dr. Merrell presented the Morona-Santiago province with an overview of the management of trauma as precursor to a course specially designed for the region. Local officials presented Dr. Merrell with a commendation noting his continued efforts to improve healthcare measures for the Clinic Luxemburgo and the indigenous peoples of the Morona-Santiago province of Ecuador.

Telemedicine Collaborations in Romania, October 2002

On October 20-24, 2002, MITAC representatives Dr. Ronald Merrell, Mr. Charles Doarn, and Dr. Lucian Panait traveled to Romania. The purpose of this visit was to explore possible collaborations and solidify existing ones in the areas of telemedicine, telehealth, and distance education. The MITAC team visited three cities in Romania: Bucharest, Craiova and Constanta.

In Bucharest, the MITAC team met with Dr. Irinel Popescu and his staff from the Fundeni Clinical Institute. They discussed the objectives of the current collaborations between the MITAC, the VCU Department of Surgery and the Fundeni Clinic. Discussions were also held on transmitting live surgery clinics every week and participation in the VCU's Surgery Grand Rounds. The concept of Romanian Telemedicine Association within the Romanian Academy and the American Telemedicine Association was discussed. Dr. Merrell and Mr. Doarn gave lectures for medical students and faculty on Surgical Robotics and Principles of Telemedicine, respectively. They were well received and were followed by a press conference of Romanian national press.

Dr. Merrell and Dr. Panait traveled to Constanta on October 22, where they were welcomed by Dr. Vasile Sarbu, the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy of "Ovidius" University of Constanta. They explored common areas of interest, including the use of telemedicine to provide healthcare in remote locations of the delta of the Danube River, establishing a Center of Excellence in surgical training and telemedicine, transmission of VCU's Department of Surgery Grand Rounds in real time, and participation in a project on maritime telemedicine on the Black Sea. Dr. Merrell also gave a lecture on Surgical Robotics. Mr. Doarn visited Craiova, were he met with Dr. Ion Georgescu, the Dean of the University of Medicine and Pharmacy, and his collaborators. The purpose of the visit was to assess the readiness of the University's management and technical team to support the NATO infrastructure grant that Mr. Doarn will serve as the project director for. He also gave a lecture for medical students and faculty on Principles of Telemedicine.

Visit to Ecuador, October 2002

MITAC personnel Dr Stephen Cone, Nathaniel Merriam, and VCU medical student, Tim Zisman, returned to Ecuador in October of 2002 for continued collaboration with two local groups. The Clinic Luxemburgo in Macas, Ecuador received an improved video capable computer workstation for ultrasound telemedicine capabilities in the Morona-Santiago province. This new workstation will also allow Dr. Leon to provide telemedical assistance for an upcoming humanitarian mission to provide much-needed reconstructive surgery to many of the area's inhabitants. To further these aims, MITAC personnel were featured on a local radio broadcast, describing our role in the healthcare of the region.

Returning to Cuenca, Ecuador, the group was pleased to meet with representatives of the Cinterandes Foundation. MITAC personnel were able to review telemedicine studies presently being conducted by the Cinterandes Foundation, as well as provide them with an updated database for medical information. Plans were made to continue the work of bringing surgical care to underserved regions of the country, next scheduled for December 2002.

Interactions with American University of Beirut, August 2002

MITAC representatives Dr. Ronald Merrell, Dr. Azhar Rafiq, and Dr. Hatem Halabi visited the American University of Beirut (AUB)August 23-28, 2002. The purpose of the visit was to meet with Dr. Costas, Dean of the AUB School of Medicine and Dr. Freiha, Chairman, Dept of Surgery to discuss ongoing collaboration between AUB and MITAC in the areas of telemedicine, distance learning, and surgical education. The MITAC team discussed the opportunity to have the MITAC telemedicine course translated into Arabic and have Dr. Halabi mentor AUB students in telemedicine using this course material. The group also discussed access to VCU's Surgery Grand Rounds in both real time and store-and-forward. The MITAC team also assessed the status of laboratory and office space for Dr. Halabi.

Dr. Costas was extremely interested in the mutually beneficial bilateral collaboration between AUB and MITAC. Dr Hatem Halabi is present in AUB to support the overall project through June 2003.

Visit to Ecuador, June 2002

Returning to Ecuador June 15-21, 2002, MITAC personnel continued work to further validate use of the RDTU for the purpose of remote vital signs monitoring during surgical procedures. Ronald Merrell, M.D., Stephen Cone, M.D., Mr. Russell Hummel, Mr. Gerald Quirk, and Patricio Escandon, M.D., in collaboration with the Cinterandes Foundation, performed seven surgical cases in the Foundation's Mobile Surgical Facility. During the long day of surgery, the team was successfully able to transmit vital signs data for five of the seven cases back to MITAC lab facilities in VCU, where Lynne Gehr, M.D. monitored remotely.

Dr. Merrell and Dr. Rodas (of Cinterandes) returned to the remote river communities of the deep Amazon basin to further study the feasibility of a waterborne Mobile Surgical Unit.

Meanwhile, the rest of the team continued collaboration with Dr. Juan Leon of the Clinic Luxemburgo

Collaborations in Telemedicine with American University of Beirut, Lebanon, April 2002

In mid April 2002, Dr. Ronald C. Merrell and Dr. Ramzi Alami visited the Department of Surgery at the American University of Beirut (AUB) in Lebanon. Drs. Merrell and Alami were guests of Dr. Fuad Freiha, Chair of Surgery. The purpose of the trip was to explore the establishment of a test bed between the Medical Informatics and Technology Applications Consortium (MITAC) and AUB's Department of Surgery. Such a test bed was well received and outlined in a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between MITAC and AUB. The basic tenets of the test bed are to build a platform for student interaction using telecommunications and information systems. It will include activities such as a surgery chat club, video teleconferencing between US academic sites and AUB, the conducting of medical seminars and the establishment of a multimedia production capability at AUB. The MOU outlines these bilateral activities and schedule. This program will begin on July 1, 2002 and will be supported at AUB by Dr. Hatem Halabi.

Dr. Merrell made several presentation during his visit, including 'Managing Surgery at a Distance' at Grand Rounds on April 15th, 'Minimally Invasive Parathyroid Surgery' at Grand Rounds on April 16th, and 'Information as the Architecture for Medicine' to joint Medicine and Surgery Rounds. In addition, Dr. Merrell was provided tours of AUB. The teaching facilities and medical capabilities were very modern. Many influences were observed from America, including US-trained faculty. The medical school is private with an all-English curriculum allowing all students to be ECFMG candidates.

© 2003 MITAC. All rights reserved.