Driving Innovation in Abdominal Wall Reconstruction

Throughout his career, new Brigham and Women’s Hospital gastrointestinal surgeon O. Yusef Kudsi, MD, MBA, has embodied an entrepreneurial spirit that has helped him to develop an international reputation as a hernia surgeon and a pioneer in robotic procedures for abdominal wall reconstruction (AWR).

“From the earliest point in my career, I have wanted to be at the forefront of innovation,” he says. “I have always looked for opportunities to find the next big thing to improve patient outcomes.”

A graduate of the University of Aleppo in Syria, Dr. Kudsi finds himself back at the Brigham nearly two decades after first working here during a postdoctoral research fellowship in tissue engineering. That fellowship was followed by a surgical residency, a minimally invasive surgery (MIS) fellowship, and an advanced MIS traveling fellowship.

Along the way, Dr. Kudsi has received an MBA from Drexel University focusing on entrepreneurship and co-founded DigitalSurgical, a company with patented technology in intraoperative, real-time 3D micrometer scanning and artificial intelligence.

In addition, he has performed over 3,500 robotic surgeries, assisted in setting up robotic programs in the Americas, Europe, and Asia, and taught hernia surgery to over 1,000 surgeons. He also has written more than 100 original, peer-reviewed articles, abstracts, and book chapters; is the editor of five robotic textbooks, including the first robotic hernia textbook published in German; and has delivered over 100 national and international presentations.

“The field of abdominal wall reconstruction has evolved significantly, and we are thrilled to welcome Dr. Kudsi, an expert in this important field, to our program,” says Ali Tavakkoli, MD, chief of the Division of General and GI Surgery at the Brigham.

Long-term Follow-up of AWR Patients Underway

While traditional, open hernia surgeries are among the most common procedures conducted in general surgery, some cases require more complicated techniques to give patients the best functional and long-term outcomes. All such surgical options are available at the Brigham’s Comprehensive Hernia Center, which treats patients using open hernia repair, minimally invasive laparoscopic, and robotic hernia repair for both primary and complex hernia repair.

As part of the center’s commitment to improving patient care before, during, and after surgery, Dr. Kudsi has established a data bank to track patient-reported outcomes for up to five years, a new gold standard for robotic surgery follow-up.

“This data bank will provide needed academic support for the choices we make and the conclusions we reach when using our different perspectives to decide on the best surgical approach for each patient,” Dr. Kudsi says. “We are fortunate to have such a large volume of patients to study and join forces with other renowned institutions doing similar work.”

Using Social Media to Share and Learn New Surgical Skills

When Dr. Kudsi started doing robotic surgery over a decade ago, he and other general and GI surgeons using robotics were scattered across the globe, often working in silos. They lacked the large-scale support structure typically provided by universities, societies, and colleagues, so Dr. Kudsi harnessed his entrepreneurism to change the paradigm.

“We learn best when we learn from each other and collaborate,” he says. “I wanted to take what’s working in other specialties using robotics, like urology and gynecology, and find a way to apply it to general and GI surgery.”

Dr. Kudsi found that other medical specialties had turned to social media as a platform for keeping surgeons connected. In 2015, he founded the Robotic Surgery Collaboration (RSC), a closed Facebook group that allows surgeons to share de-identified cases and exchange questions and experiences on particular techniques and practices. The RSC now has nearly 16,000 members participating in numerous online conversations daily and sharing questions, photos, and videos of their techniques for others’ feedback, learning, and discussion.

“The RSC is designed to supplement, rather than replace, weekly morbidity and mortality conferences, articles, and society meetings,” Dr. Kudsi says. “Not only has it helped other surgeons push the envelope and learn how to effectively integrate robotic surgery at their institutions, but it also has created a real community of friends committed to each other and the field as a whole.”

The Value of Helping Others

Dr. Kudsi’s interest in collaborating and interacting with other surgeons also extends to his role as an educator. In addition to his current role on the Brigham faculty, he previously established an accredited MIS fellowship and a funded clinical research fellowship focused on AWR and robotic and artificial intelligence surgery.

Today, he travels the world—with visits to over 500 hospitals in the last 10 years—mentoring, proctoring, and developing relationships with surgeons and educators from the world’s leading institutions.

“Early in my career, I learned the importance of helping others and learning from them,” Dr. Kudsi says. “I have valued every tip and piece of advice I have received; they have helped me to grow as a surgeon and an individual. I feel very fortunate, at a relatively young age, to have these opportunities to travel, teach, and see the impact of the interactions I have had both here at the Brigham and abroad.”

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