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In addition to developing groundbreaking surgical techniques, Dr. Giulianotti teaches other doctors how to best use the robots. Here he points out the targeted area for the robotic surgery to a resident.
Dr. Pier Giulianotti – Robotic Surgery’s Guiding Force
Dr. Pier Cristoforo Giulianotti is the Chief of General, Minimally Invasive and Robotic Surgery at UI Health. Born in the Tuscan town of Filattiera in the Province of Massa and Carrara, Dr. Giulianotti has dedicated his entire career to the development of novel, minimally invasive techniques that have translated into improved patients’ care and outcomes.
He received his medical degree from the foremost Italian university, “Normale” of Pisa. In addition to a formal general surgery residency, he completed two additional residencies in Thoracic Surgery and Vascular Surgery. From 1998 through 2004, he was the Head of the Department of General Surgery at Misericordia Hospital in Grosseto in Tuscany. Already experienced in laparoscopic and advanced open surgery, he then began using robotic technology in 2000. Over the past 35 years, he has pioneered surgical techniques and teaching practices. He has become world renowned in the field of robotic-assisted surgery, which he continues to develop. He is the founder of the International School of Robotic Surgery, the first if its kind in Europe, which to date, has trained more than 750 surgeons from 24 countries.
Dr. Giulianotti was the first surgeon in the world to perform a significant series of robotic procedures to treat complex diseases and cancers and he has personally performed more than 2,000 robot-assisted surgeries. He is now the Lloyd Nyhus Chairman in General, Minimally Invasive and Robotic Surgery at the University of Illinois, College of Medicine. Due to his incredible efforts, now, most abdominal procedures performed at that medical center are done robotically. The robot “has enormous benefits for the patients,” Dr. Giulianotti said. “Open procedures involve a longer postoperative stay and more complications.”
He estimates that there are more than 1,600 robotic surgery systems in the United States. “In the majority of hospitals, there is a growing tendency to use the robot as part of a multidisciplinary program,” he said. “That means at the same institution, different surgical teams on different days are using the robot for different indications. Of the 1,600 systems out there, I would estimate that about half are used for general surgery,” he continued.
While hospital administrators have warmed up to the idea of initiating robotic surgery programs at their institutions in recent years, it was Dr. Giulianotti who was the major proponent behind the culture change in terms of how surgeons and medical educators think about the robot’s place in clinical medicine. “There is a cultural resistance in accepting big changes in surgery,” Dr. Giulianotti said. “Academic medical institutions can play a key role here. They need to start teaching robotics in a mandatory way by offering training opportunities in a lab. We also believe that simulation has a big future in this kind of training.”
As a leader in the field, Dr. Giulianotti is the guiding force behind the Clinical Robotic Surgery Association (CRSA), the most important robotic surgical association. Its members include the vast majority of practicing robotic surgeons worldwide.
He is also the Robotic Clinical Fellowship Program at the University of Illinois and has been the proctor to many robotic surgery teams from around the world. Under Dr. Giulianotti’s leadership, the University has become the first center in the world to officially conduct robotic training for surgical residents.
In the evaluation of medical practices and surgery, Dr. Giulianotti fully expects robots to play an increasingly prominent role in the future. “In my opinion there is no way back from robotic surgery,” he said in an interview. “It’s in the destiny of humanity, for the simple reason: to perform more precisely and to overcome our limitations – not only manual limitations, the ability to control movements at a microscopic level, for example – but also diagnostic limitations. The computer and the artificial intelligence of the future will integrate our senses and our mechanical abilities, so we will be able to perform more precisely on selected targets.”
Dr. Giulianotti has authored and co-authored 179 published articles on robotic surgery, including several first reports of robot-assisted pancreatic and liver surgery and has received more than a dozen professional awards in Italy, the United States and Asia.