More than a camera holder: Teaching surgical skills to medical students

Paulette Abbas, Juliet Holder-Haynes, Deborah J. Taylor, Bradford G. Scott, Mary L. Brandt, Bindi Naik-Mathuria

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background Students often experience passive learning in their surgical rotations as they are delegated to holding the camera during laparoscopic cases. We introduced a laparoscopic skills course to medical students to provide hands-on experience. We hypothesized that the course will improve basic laparoscopic skills and increase interest in a surgical career. Materials and methods All students on the core surgery rotation attended two sessions in the surgical simulation laboratory lead by Department of Surgery faculty members. Surveys were used before and after the course to assess video game (VG) use and interest in a surgical career. Course effectiveness was assessed with a laparoscopic peg transfer exercise. Results One hundred one students participated with 82 students documenting preinstruction and postinstruction peg transfer times. There was an overall improvement in median transfer times after instruction (before 63 s [interquartile range {IQR} 46-84.5] versus after 50.5 s [IQR 39-65.2], P < 0.001). When stratified by gender, men (n = 40) had faster median preintervention peg transfer times than women (n = 61; 65 s [IQR 51-88]) versus 81 s [IQR 65-98] (P = 0.030). However, both genders had equivalent postinstruction transfer times (men 48 s [IQR 36-61] versus women 51.3 s [IQR 43.2-68.3], P = 0.478). A similar trend was observed between students with and without prior VG use. Of the 50 students who completed both surveys, there was no significant increase (pre-24% versus post-34%, P = 0.29) or decrease (pre-32% versus post-22%, P = 0.13) in interest in a surgical career after the course. Conclusions A laparoscopic course for medical students is effective in improving laparoscopic skills. Although male gender and VG use may be associated with better intrinsic skills, instruction and practice allow female students and non-VG users to "catch up." A longer follow-up study is warranted to determine true interest in a surgical career.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)385-389
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 15 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Medical education Simulation laboratory Laparoscopic skills Surgical mentorship

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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