Graham Middle School student Josh Still tests a virtual operating system from Urbana Hospital with the guidance of surgeon Tedros Androm, MD. LUCAS GONZALEZ/STAFF

Graham Middle School students test surgical robot from Urbana Hospital

A class of students at Graham Middle School in St. Paris had the chance to operate a surgical robot from Mercy Health Urbana Hospital this week.

The eighth graders took turns controlling the arms of the machine in a virtual simulation and on a physical model of a gallbladder.

Principle Chad Lensman said that the firsthand experience may inspire students to pursue a job in medicine.

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“We want to (give) a lot of exposure to as many different careers as possible so they can start thinking about what they want to be when they get older,” Lensman said. “Maybe this inspires a couple surgeons going forward.”

Dr. Tedros Androm, a surgeon with the hospital, said the robot will help surgeons treat conditions in a minimally-invasive way.

“Since you can see with much clarity with 3D vision, you can identify tissues a lot easier.”

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The hospital received the robot, a da Vinci XI Surgical System, back in September. Before then, patients were relocated to other hospitals to complete specific operations, according to Androm.

“Now, we can keep patients in Urbana as well as attract some of the surrounding counties and cities.”

Until recently, the hospital’s robot remained nameless. To solve this dilemma, the hospital turned to students from Graham Middle School for help.

The hospital hosted a naming contest, accepting one submission from each homeroom at the school.

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On Monday, the robot finally received a name, voted by the student body. It is now known as ‘Wall-E,’ - a name inspired by a fictional character from a 2008 animated film.

“It was pretty hard. It was fun though,” said Carter Neves, one of the first students to operate the robot.

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“I’m happy that we got this opportunity because not many people would,” said Tory Pence.

Katie Setty, the students’ teacher, said that the opportunity taught students about the medical field - a career path which some might pursue.

“It is going to give them that extra dose of life experience that they don’t always get.”

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