SAGES Holds Project 6 Summit, Launches Telementoring Initiative

SAGES Project 6 Summit, taking place today in Los Angeles, will convene telementoring experts and surgeons to strategize and make recommendations for future directions in the field that aim to accelerate the rate at which less invasive surgery will be available to patients.

“In the military, ‘got your six’ means ‘I’ve got your back,’ and that’s how we view telementoring,” says Dr. Brian Dunkin, President of the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons (SAGES) and Head of Endoscopic Surgery and Medical Director at the Methodist Institute for Technology, Innovation and Education (MITIE℠).  “Today’s technology allows us to virtually stand side-by-side in support of our fellow surgeons and patients in the operating room,” said Dr. Dunkin, who has been telementoring colleagues for the past several years at MITIE℠.

The Project 6 Summit will bring together stakeholders to identify barriers to telementoring and strategize on how to overcome them. Five separate working groups will discuss: 1) Legal/regulatory, 2) Technology, 3) Communication/Education, 4) Business model/proving value, and 5) Logistics.

A white paper will be written about the proceedings, and the work of the Summit will be used to drive SAGES’ efforts in this area moving forward. This key initiative will foster more meaningful adoption of minimally invasive surgery and flexible endoscopy into practice.

The SAGES Telementoring Task Force, chaired by Dr. Christopher Schlachta, and co-chaired by Drs. Ninh Nguyen and Todd Ponsky, differentiates telementoring and telemedicine as follows: Telemedicine is providing a service directly to a patient over distance. Telementoring is a quality initiative for the practicing surgeon and requires three essential elements:

  1. An established relationship between the mentor and the mentee. This makes telementoring different from teleconsultation where there is not an established relationship prior to the event, or telemedicine which is the direct interaction between the patient and the expert. In telementoring, the skills and knowledge of both mentor and mentee are understood through a relationship developed prior to the telementoring event.
  2. Telementoring occurs within an educational framework. Both the mentor and mentee have worked together within this framework and been properly prepared for the mentoring experience.
  3. Telementoring is done with a competent mentee. This means that the mentee is completely capable of managing the patient’s disease as if the mentor were not there – just with a different technique or using a different technology. The mentoring session is to help adopt a new technique or technology into clinical practice, but always with a safe fall back plan if anyone is uncomfortable with how the procedure is progressing.

For more information about SAGES’ Project 6 Summit, visit

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