In the past we’ve reported on the impact that virtual reality could have on the medical world in both a negative and a positive way. Last week VR took a step in the right direction with proving that it will become much more of a help than a hindrance to medical professionals.

Last Thursday, Dr. Shafi Ahmed, was the first surgeon to ever live stream an operation in virtual reality. This was performed by the British surgeon wearing a pair of Google glasses. The idea behind this was to give medical students around the world a new look into cutting edge (excuse the pun) surgical techniques from the best seat in the house.

The operation was performed at the Royal London hospital, but that didn’t stop around 13,000 students being able to view the procedure. Even students from Gaza tuned in to watch Dr. Ahmed as he removed cancerous tissues from a 78 year old patient. Sadly, the virtual reality headsets that were sent to Gaza, never made it into the strip due to the strict Israeli siege. However this didn’t stop the students from watching as they managed to located three headsets that were privately owned in Gaza.

Dr Elessi has since elaborated about the organisation involved in putting something like this together, stating that “due to the shortage in VR headsets, the preparation for the live-streaming was stressful and the size of the event was limited but the experience was very well-received by the students, senior academics and Ministry of Health decision makers that we invited to attend.”

The internet has played a key role in the sharing of medical knowledge with students in Gaza. They had streamed hundreds of lectures to them in the past via video conference. Due to the restrictions placed on Gaza by the siege it makes it increasingly difficult for students to travel to gain expertise and training so steps like this have to be taken in order to share knowledge to improve the quality of medical practises in the region.

If the access to VR headsets becomes easier, then 360 VR Streaming seems to be one of the best way that students in Gaza could learn surgical techniques. Dr Elessi believes that this has proved it’s worth saying that “the live streaming of an operation using live 360° video technology is unprecedented and I am sure future live-streamed operations with live Q&A sessions between our students and the surgeon would go a long way”.

We think this is a huge win for Virtual Reality as the technology has allowed the share of crucial knowledge that could help to save lives in the future and improve the quality of life in an area that is much less fortunate than ours. We hope to see VR used in many similar practises and hope that it continues to help connect people for positive reasons all around the world.

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