Shafi Ahmed dons a pair of digital sunglasses and explains how the tiny lenses built into its black plastic frame, which can capture high-resolution images, are transforming how doctors get trained in operating rooms.
The British colorectal surgeon used Snap Inc.’s high-tech spectacles a year ago to walk rookie physicians and millions of curious viewers through a hernia operation using the Snapchat photo-sharing app. In 2018, he plans to beam his avatar into operating rooms with so-called immersive technology, which spans everything from military training to adult entertainment, and promises to support the next generation of doctors with real-time supervision and tutelage.
“Doctors do not need to feel out of their depth, and this technology will allow them to get help whenever required,” says Ahmed, whose early adoption of digital technology and social media has seen him recognized as the planet’s most-watched surgeon, with more than 2 million views and 50 million Twitter posts for the Snapchat surgery alone. “We all need support and help when faced with a tricky situation.”
Ahmed’s well-publicized, public approach rankles some members of a very conservative profession. Yet he says it represents one of the best ways to meet the World Health Organization’s call to “scale up transformative, high-quality education” and plug a predicted global shortfall of 15 million health workers by 2030.
A report by the Lancet Commission on Global Surgery estimated in 2015 that 5 billion people lack access to safe, affordable surgical and anesthesia care, leading to about 17 million deaths annually. Saving lives will require a doubling of the surgical workforce, or an extra 2.2 million surgeons, anesthetists and obstetricians over 15 years, the report said.