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Traveling robotic surgery comes to Jackson High School

Jackson High School students were able to interact up close with a da Vinci Xi Surgical System on Oct. 12. The da Vinci was designed by Intuitive Surgical and allows surgeons to perform complex operations with a minimal amount of small incisions.

“It gives the surgeon an extension of their hands and eyes, so they can perform surgery in a minimally invasive fashion,” Intuitive Surgical representative Mike Marcum. “When they sit down, they look through the stereo viewer and see a 3D/HD image, opposed what you see standing bedside or in an open setting.”

Marcum was joined at JHS by Whitney Eftink, a circulating nurse at Southeast Hospital who has worked with the system since it was recently put into use at Southeast. They both answered student’s questions about the technology before the students were given the opportunity to try out the system.

“It’s kind of like a video game, so they were able to see it was not as intimidating as you might think and that a person still controls the robot,” Eftink said. “It’s not just dialing in to the robot and having it do the procedure. There has to be someone there with that knowledge to perform the surgery.”

Blake Miller, the head of the science department at JHS said around 80 percent of the science students at JHS, totaling several hundred students, were able to see and interact with the da Vinci.

“They’re seeing where technology is, where it can go and some of the different jobs that are available,” Miller said. “There is not just the surgeon or the software programmer. There’s a variety of things, just with this device, that have to go on to get it to work.”

Miller said the event was a great learning experience on how technology has been put to use. He said a lot of his students are interested in medicine, but the robotics class also attended the hands-on event to focus on how the surgical arm moves during the surgery.

Jay Forness covers education, county government and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Jackson for the past five years. He can be reached at

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