Young girls test new robotic surgical system at hospital

By Gina Ender

Last update: Thursday, July 13th, 2017

A group of elementary school-aged girls geared up to perform surgeries at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital on Thursday afternoon.

Well, they were given demonstrations of the hospital’s new da Vinci Xi Surgical System, which allows doctors to perform minimally-invasive surgeries more precisely using 3D high-definition vision.

Used for the first time in Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital that morning by physician Sevan Stepanian, M.D. on a prostate cancer patient, the robotic machine helps doctors make smaller incisions and helps patients have less blood loss, less pain and a faster recovery time.

“It’s really heartwarming,” Stepanian said. “It’s exciting to see them have so much interest in robotics and engineering because they really are the future and they are going to shape health care.”

The 11 girls were all part of the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Clarita’s robotics team, where they are encouraged to pursue hobbies and careers in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics field.

Isabella Mena, 8, said she has thought about being a doctor and would enjoy using the robots in her job, but would be a little nervous if she were the patient being worked on.

“I’m really excited,” Mena said. “I couldn’t wait to get here and learn all about the stuff they were going to do.”

This was the first time Chloe Benites, 9, played with robotics and said she thought it looked cool.

“I heard the word ‘robot’ and I wanted to be in it,” Benites said. “This is more exciting because I get to play with it.”

Lea Necoechea, 10, spreads rubber bands onto a practice structure ahead of a competition for the Boys and Girls Club’s robotics team, in which they simulate robotic-assisted surgery at the Henry Mayo Center on Thursday, July 13, 2017. For each successful rubber band placement, Henry Mayo donated $10 to the team. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

During the robotics event at the hospital, the girls practiced moving miniature rubber bands to test how delicate the machine was. The girls then competed against one another on two different machines, and for every rubber band they moved, the hospital donated $10 to the Boys and Girls Club.

“We’re encouraging girls to not only take root but to blossom in robotics,” David Menchaca, CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Clarita said. “What the kids see today gives them a sense of a pathway to a career.”

Going to the hospital for the event also had its social benefits for the girls, according to Menchaca, because it allowed them to feel special when adults were listening to them and answering their questions. This boosts their self-esteem and makes them feel valued and unique, he said.

Allowing for a group of only girls to go will encourage some friendly competition with the boys back at the Boys and Girls Club, Branch Manager Janine Fairall said.

“For the girls to get to see firsthand what they can actually do is life changing,” Fairall said. “They are given the space and opportunity to see that they can do it.”

Board of Directors Chair Judy Fish, Ph.D. told the girls she anticipated at least one of them would use advanced technology in their future career.

“I hope to hear about your great accomplishments,” Fish said. “You are going to look back at this day and think about how far you’ve come.”

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Young girls test new robotic surgical system at hospital

Members of the Boys and Girls Club robotics team watch as their teammate works to place rubber bands onto a practice structure to simulate robotic-assisted surgery at the Henry Mayo Center on Thursday, July 13, 2017. For each successful rubber band placement, Henry Mayo donated $10 to the team. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

A group of elementary school-aged girls geared up to perform surgeries at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital on Thursday afternoon.

Well, they were given demonstrations of the hospital’s new da Vinci Xi Surgical System, which allows doctors to perform minimally-invasive surgeries more precisely using 3D high-definition vision.

Used for the first time in Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital that morning by physician Sevan Stepanian, M.D. on a prostate cancer patient, the robotic machine helps doctors make smaller incisions and helps patients have less blood loss, less pain and a faster recovery time.

“It’s really heartwarming,” Stepanian said. “It’s exciting to see them have so much interest in robotics and engineering because they really are the future and they are going to shape health care.”

The 11 girls were all part of the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Clarita’s robotics team, where they are encouraged to pursue hobbies and careers in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics field.

Isabella Mena, 8, said she has thought about being a doctor and would enjoy using the robots in her job, but would be a little nervous if she were the patient being worked on.

“I’m really excited,” Mena said. “I couldn’t wait to get here and learn all about the stuff they were going to do.”

This was the first time Chloe Benites, 9, played with robotics and said she thought it looked cool.

“I heard the word ‘robot’ and I wanted to be in it,” Benites said. “This is more exciting because I get to play with it.”

Lea Necoechea, 10, spreads rubber bands onto a practice structure ahead of a competition for the Boys and Girls Club’s robotics team, in which they simulate robotic-assisted surgery at the Henry Mayo Center on Thursday, July 13, 2017. For each successful rubber band placement, Henry Mayo donated $10 to the team. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

During the robotics event at the hospital, the girls practiced moving miniature rubber bands to test how delicate the machine was. The girls then competed against one another on two different machines, and for every rubber band they moved, the hospital donated $10 to the Boys and Girls Club.

“We’re encouraging girls to not only take root but to blossom in robotics,” David Menchaca, CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Clarita said. “What the kids see today gives them a sense of a pathway to a career.”

Going to the hospital for the event also had its social benefits for the girls, according to Menchaca, because it allowed them to feel special when adults were listening to them and answering their questions. This boosts their self-esteem and makes them feel valued and unique, he said.

Allowing for a group of only girls to go will encourage some friendly competition with the boys back at the Boys and Girls Club, Branch Manager Janine Fairall said.

“For the girls to get to see firsthand what they can actually do is life changing,” Fairall said. “They are given the space and opportunity to see that they can do it.”

Board of Directors Chair Judy Fish, Ph.D. told the girls she anticipated at least one of them would use advanced technology in their future career.

“I hope to hear about your great accomplishments,” Fish said. “You are going to look back at this day and think about how far you’ve come.”

About the author

Gina Ender

Gina Ender

Gina Ender is a journalist covering city government and breaking news in the Santa Clarita Valley. She joined The Signal as a staff writer in February 2017. You can contact Gina Ender at gender@signalscv.com, 661-287-5525 or follow her on Twitter at @ginaender.