Two Surgeons Who Took Part in a Johnson & Johnson Institute Pilot Program Share Insights.
New technology and procedures are constantly being developed to improve patient care. And the Johnson & Johnson Institute is always looking for new ways to deliver education and training to support the safe and effective use of the company’s products and technologies. Surgical coaching is a method of professional development the J&J Institute believes holds promise. It uses a coaching mindset to personalize improvement of a surgeon’s performance through collaborative analysis and feedback.
We spoke with two surgeons who took part in a pilot program to evaluate how to incorporate surgical coaching into the J&J Institute professional educational offering. Kamal Woods, MD, a neurological spine surgeon in Dayton, Ohio, was the coach who shared his skills with and knowledge of the Anterior -To- Psoas (ATP) approach used in lumbar spine surgery. Alekos Theologis, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at the University of California - San Francisco who specializes in caring for adults and children with spinal disorders, sought to learn from Dr. Woods. Here, they share why they believe this surgical coaching has value and how it is uniquely suited to address the challenges of continuing medical education today.
The interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Dr. Theologis: I was doing the ATP procedure, but I had learned it open and wanted to adopt a minimally invasive technique. Education for practicing surgeons is primarily didactic by lecture at medical congresses or in short courses. This program seemed to offer more support and be more interactive. I was also excited to be paired with an expert who would help me gain product and procedural knowledge.
Dr. Woods: I wanted to take on a new challenge. I had previous experience in medical education and training other surgeons, but never thought of myself as a surgical coach. When I had the opportunity to participate in the surgical coach training, it was truly eye-opening. I gained a whole new perspective through self-reflection on what it means to be a coach.
How was the program structured and what did the sessions involve?
Dr. Woods: We conducted four, one-hour sessions over videoconference. We used the Johnson & Johnson Institute Connect platform to schedule and host our sessions and share files. In the first session, we reviewed Alekos’ learning objectives. The subsequent sessions were case-based. We developed a stepwise plan of action together. Areas of focused attention included surgical indications, patient selection, pre-operative planning, positioning. At the beginning of each session, we picked up the conversation from where we had left off and kept delving into the details about the products and procedure.
Dr. Theologis: Kamal created an easy, comfortable environment for the sessions. He was always trying to understand my current technique and build from there. I wanted to learn his technique using the Depuy Synthes ATP Procedural Solution. Understand the pearls and the potential pitfalls. I would share films of patients who I considered to be good candidates for the procedure, and together we would analyze them. I felt that my goals for the program were met.
What do you think are the benefits of surgical coaching?
Dr. Theologis: It can be very helpful to engage with an expert outside of your current sphere. Sometimes it can be complicated to learn from colleagues in your hospital or even in the city where you practice. Because surgical coaching is virtual, it’s easy to be paired with an expert who is located anywhere. It’s also a very efficient process. I have traveled to attend courses and not received the kind of personal, one-on-one time I received during the coaching program. I think this could be the future of learning for certain techniques.
Dr. Woods: In my opinion, it’s easier to stand at a podium and give a presentation that has been planned. After a while, such medical education talks are reruns of previous lectures. As a coach, one is much more vulnerable! It’s almost like an ongoing Q&A that lasts several weeks or a few months. Through obsession with the details, you can see the strengths and weaknesses of the procedure and your own technique. If there are pitfalls, they become evident, and you recognize them together and learn from it. Surgical coaching is a paradigm shift in education that is increasingly relevant to the way we learn as surgeons and has the potential to make us all better.
1. The pilot involved the safe and effective use of the DePuy Synthes Spine UNLEASH MIS TLIF Solution.
2. The Academy of Surgical Coaching provided training to Dr. Woods and the other surgeon coaches in the pilot program.
3. The The Connect Platform is a digital tool in development by the J&J Institute to help make surgical coaching programs more efficient, effective, and scalable.
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