Fen Pang, MD, recently made the journey from China to Los Angeles to spend a week with the team from the USC Institute of Urology as part of the department’s apprentice program. Pang, who hoped to advance his knowledge of robotic and laparoscopic procedures, said he chose to sign up for the program at Keck Medicine of USC because he wanted to learn from “the best urologic team in the world.”

For the past three years, the USC Institute of Urology has been running weeklong, structured visits for visiting doctors like Peng under what it has dubbed the USC Urology Apprentice Program, which it offers to small groups of doctors seeking to learn urologic surgical techniques from one of the most experienced teams in the world.

“For us at USC, it is very important to share our knowledge and what we provide is a structured, week-long immersion course,” said René Sotelo, MD, professor of clinical urology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

Sotelo, who also is medical director of international medicine of Keck Medicine, explained that the department has long hosted visiting doctors who want to learn from the team of urologists at Keck Medicine, citing the group’s depth of experience in robotic and laparoscopic procedures as well as cutting-edge techniques, such as using high-intensity focused ultrasound, or HIFU, in combination with robotic surgery to treat prostate cancer.

Sotelo added that the department created a formal program, offered six or seven times a year, to provide the best possible experience in a short amount of time. Apprentices, who pay to participate in the program, can opt to stay for an additional week of observation at no extra charge.

During the week they spend on the Health Sciences Campus, the apprentices attend several lectures given by Keck School faculty. They observe up to 30 live robotic, laparoscopic and open surgeries, as well as practice on simulators under faculty member supervision. At the end of a week of intensive training, they are sent home with materials, including a series of videos, which they can share with their colleagues at home.

Colin Teo, MD, another recent apprentice from Singapore, said the program, which teaches doctors how to improve upon existing procedures as well as train them in leading-edge techniques, helps to improve urology care around the world.

“I think USC is helping to bring up the standard of care in urology in the world,” Teo said.

— Hope Hamashige