January 3, 2022

Freethink Features the University of Illinois Chicago Surgical Innovation Training Lab

The lab, which opened its doors in 2020, is devoted to developing, testing, and using new and emerging robotic surgical technologies in various scenarios.

The Freethink piece features the work and thinking of Dr. Pier Giulianotti, chief of General, Minimally Invasive, and Robotic Surgery at University of Illinois at Chicago Health. Dr. Giulianotti was the pioneer of the lab, which aims to help him achieve his mission of creating “a world in which the ‘dream surgery’—one enhanced by digital technology and robotics—is a reality.”

The formerly dark and unused space in the basement of the University of Illinois Chicago’s Neuropsychiatric Institute was transformed by our design team into a state-of-the-art simulation laboratory meant to springboard the surgical innovations of the future. The 17,000-SF space uses the flexibility of theater design as inspiration. Theater stages are designed with behind-the-scenes storage spaces for quick set and costume changes. The centerpiece of the SITL is the Innovation Lab, which connects a traditional surgical space and an experimentation research garage known as the Surgical Innovation Garage. Storage spaces allow for adaptability and flexibility—equipment can move in and out to create different modes of use. It is also meant to pioneer the future “surgineer,” the future surgeon being a clinician as well as a computer scientist and a medical technology engineer and inventor.

While underground, the SITL has a strong presence above ground with its Louvre Museum-inspired skylights. This provides those on campus a glimpse of the innovation happening below and those in the simulation lab a window to the outside.

The article highlights some projects in the works currently at the lab: “SITL is currently developing digital twins of patients, highly accurate models built from images of the patient’s body. The end goal is VR simulations so accurate that the surgeon is practically practicing within the patient’s body.”

Dr. Giulianotti is also focused on the “minimal” part of minimally-invasive surgery: “Less infection, less blood loss; less risk, less scarring; less pain. AI-powered models would let surgeons develop custom plans of action, to be carried out with AI-assisted confidence using robots capable of enhancing a surgeon’s abilities to something approaching superhuman—this is Giulianotti’s dream.”

The project has won multiple design awards, including Healthcare Design Showcase’s Award of Merit and a Bronze placement in its Remodel/Renovation competition. It was also a finalist for Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas and an Interior Design Best of Year finalist.

Learn more about the UIC SITL design >