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Pioneer in Robotics, Minimally Invasive Surgery Is New Chair of UCSD Department of Surgery


September 19, 2005  |  

Mark Talamini, M.D., one of the nation’s leading authorities in the field of minimally invasive surgery, and a pioneer in the development and application of robotic technology in surgery, is the new Chair of the Department of Surgery at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Medical Center.

Following an extensive national search, Talamini was recruited to UCSD from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where he was Professor of Surgery and Director of Minimally Invasive Surgery. He began at UCSD on July 1.

“With Dr. Talamini at the helm, the UCSD department of surgery will continue to be at the forefront of surgical practice, introducing new programs and technologies that benefit San Diegans,” said Edward W. Holmes, UCSD Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences and Dean, School of Medicine. “Dr. Talamini is an outstanding surgeon, a distinguished scholar, and a respected authority on minimally invasive surgery and robotics, which are the wave of the future in surgical technology. He is dedicated to improving patient care through collaboration not only with his clinical colleagues, but with molecular biologists, engineers and others who contribute to the development of innovative new treatments.”

At Johns Hopkins, Talamini has been a pioneer in the use of robotics in laparoscopic (minimally invasive) surgery. He specializes in gastrointestinal disease, including gastric, colon and pancreatic cancer.

“The term ‘robotics’ is a little misleading,” said Talamini. “This is really computer-assisted surgery, putting microchip technology between the surgeon and the patient, allowing us to perform complex procedures through tiny incisions using vivid 3-D optics and instruments the size of chopsticks. With robotics we can do complex procedures with remarkable precision through incisions that are an inch or less long. This offers the promise of less risk, less discomfort, faster recovery and better outcomes for the patient.”

He is launching a robotic surgery program at UCSD Medical Center, beginning with a gastrointestinal surgery program utilizing the daVinci robotic system. He sees applications for this technology expanding rapidly and changing the way surgery is performed.

“Surgeons are generally conservative, we like to use proven procedures and tools and are reluctant to let new technologies in the door,” he commented. “But with the strides that have been made in recent years, bringing engineering, computers and technology together to give us new and better tools, we have crossed a threshold -- the sky is the limit for how far we can go.

“San Diego provides a unique opportunity. It’s an amazing environment with a wealth of talent in biotechnology and engineering, and UCSD is a research university that does not take a back seat to any institution,” he said. “I am excited about joining a superb department of surgery that has the potential to be a true leader in surgical innovation in the country.”

In addition to Talamini’s clinical expertise, he is a respected teacher and mentor, and a prolific NIH-funded investigator with over 100 articles and book chapters to his credit. He has held national leadership positions with the Society of American Gastrointestinal Endoscopic Surgeons (SAGES), the American College of Surgeons and the Association for Academic Surgery. He serves on the editorial boards of several prominent surgical journals, and is editor-in-chief of the Journal of Laparoendoscopic and Advanced Surgical Techniques.

Talamini earned his undergraduate and medical degrees and completed his residency training at Johns Hopkins, joining the faculty in 1987. In addition to his clinical training he has completed extensive research training in number of subspecialty areas. He is married, with three children.

The UCSD department of surgery includes eight divisions, 74 full-time faculty, approximately 100 residents and fellows, and an annual budget to support patient care, research and teaching of approximately $30 million.

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