As we get further into the gaming world, the surgical field has developed laparoscopic simulators that allow trainees to understand the dynamics of this type of surgery before performing them on actual patients. In a further twist on gaming, this study out of Rome tested whether the simple act of playing on a Wii for a few weeks could improve performance on the surgical simulator. The investigators randomized 40 residents: 1/2 used the Wii for a month, while the other 1/2 did not. At the end, the investigators re-checked each resident's performance on the surgical simulator. Voila! the residents who had played on the Wii significantly improved scores with the surgical simulator.
So that's great. Residents can play on the Wii and improve service for their patients. But let's think about the opposite way for a second. There are a lot of surgeries happening in this world where laparoscopic surgical equipment does not exist: war surgery in Syria, emergency surgeries in the Central African Republic, etc. And soon, a growing problem with humanitarian surgeons (especially expatriate surgeons) will be that many will be competent in laparoscopic surgeries, but NOT in open surgeries. Especially as the benefits, safety and ease of laparoscopic surgeries far outweigh that of open surgeries, fewer and fewer surgeons are comfortable with open surgeries. This helps those patients in the developed world, but when these surgeons arrive for humanitarian missions that don't have laparoscopic equipment, they may need a steep learning curve - at the cost of patient safety.
One easy way to circumvent this problem would be for humanitarian organizations to recruit more competent surgeons from developing countries - where the pool of those qualified to do open surgeries can be vast. Humanitarian organizations should do this! The other option would be to have surgical simulators that mimic 'open surgeries'. There's probably not a market for this in the developed world, but as a training module for surgeons, it could prolong the queue of competent 'western' surgeons until a Utopian time when even in war-ravaged or isolated surgeries can be performed laparoscopically.