In line with the University’s strategic aim of maximising health and well-being through academic excellence, collaborative research, education and outreach, core activity sited at the centre currently includes:
- ‘The Future of Colorectal Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment: Combining Tissue Responsive Probes, AI and Machine Learning to Transform Medical Care’ – a €7.7 million research project to be conducted over a three year period at Ireland’s first Digital Surgery Unit which was officially opened at the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital on 25th July 2019. The project was awarded €5.7 million in funding from the Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund (Ireland 2040) in December 2018, with another €2 million from industry partners. This pioneering research is a collaboration between UCD, the Mater Hospital, RCSI, IBM Research and Deciphex, bringing together leading expertise in medicine, dye chemistry, computer science and mathematics with surgical excellence. The team will develop new tissue responsive dyes and use Artificial Intelligence to improve intra-operative diagnostics and decision making with a particular focus on cancer surgery.
- Post-graduate training at the UCD-MMUH Clinical Anatomy Centre – a nationally unique skills development, simulation and research facility developed in partnership with UCD Anatomy. Located in the historic original Mater Theatres, the facility allows new technologies, systems and procedures to be introduced, perfected and embedded, leading to better patient outcomes. Course participants from first year surgical trainee to consultant level have access to comprehensive biomaterial and evolving technologies to drive the evolution of surgical excellence. Recent courses have included image guided surgical interventions, robotic surgery and microsurgery. Creating a climate of excellence in teaching, research and clinical practice, the centre sets up a continuum of skills acquisition and the advancement of surgical practice.
- Undergraduate education includes regular surgery boot camps where students experience simulation theatre (scrub and gowning; pre- and post-op care of the surgical patient; theatre etiquette), learn surgical skills (suturing and knot tying; laparoscopic box) and benefit from vertical integration of anatomy curriculum into the clinical setting (cadaveric workshops). Core academic faculty are supported by NCHDs and consultant experts in delivering in-programme teaching (boot camps, simulation emergency scenarios) as well as offering additional learning opportunities for students with a strong interest in the field of surgery (e.g. UCD SurgSoc-led clinical skills sessions).
- Recognising the importance of outreach and that the story of UCD Surgery (past, present and future) is worth telling, recent events include UCD Festival 2019 and the nationally-covered press launch of the Digital Surgery Unit. Exhibits have also included patient-art shows, contributions regarding post-surgery healing and a historical exposition on Surgical Care in 1916 Dublin. Adding to this portfolio of art, history and cultural events, upcoming events include Culture Night 2019, a student photography competition and the launch of an Artist in Residence programme in co-operation with Mater Transformation Office, with residency commencing September 2019. Partnerships on these projects have included Mater Hospital Archive, UCD Technology Enhanced Learning, UCD SPARC, NCAD and media. The centre continues to work with science communicators on engagement strategy and strategic partnerships.
- The first student gym on a hospital site opened in summer 2019 in a partnership between Precision Surgery and UCD/Mater Medicine. The studio puts student wellness and health as a priority as undergraduates transition from preclinical years in Belfield to their clinical programme at the Mater. This state-of-the-art facility, managed by an expert fitness instructor, allows continuity of exercise routine at a point in their programme when students have less access to Belfield facilities. The gym is located in the Catherine McAuley Education and Research Centre on the Mater campus.
- Other areas of collaboration include medical device design, development and testing; 3D printing; industry partnerships in both training provision and research.
The establishment of the UCD Centre for Precision Surgery represents an important, strategic advancement in surgical research and education. It enables a coherent approach to the development of infrastructure and facilities, is a platform for interdisciplinary collaboration and provides a focal point for external engagement. As the only centre of its kind in Ireland, the UCD Centre for Precision Surgery contributes to significant advances in impactful training, personalised medicine and the future of digital health.