An Interview with Intuitive Surgical Vice President of Strategy, Catherine Mohr

An Interview with Intuitive Surgical Vice President of Strategy, Catherine Mohr

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Catherine Mohr, M.D., M.S.M.E. is the Vice President of Strategy at Intuitive Surgical. Since joining the company in 2006, Dr. Mohr has focused on medical research and has been involved in evaluating new technologies and exploring new surgical applications. Prior to Intuitive Surgical, Dr. Mohr was involved with numerous startup companies in the areas of alternative energy transportation, computer-aided design software, and medical devices.

She currently serves on the faculty of Singularity University, an institution teaching and studying the impact of exponentially changing technologies, and regularly lectures at Stanford University School of Medicine.

Dr. Mohr received her B.S. and M.S. in mechanical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and her M.D. from Stanford University School of Medicine.

Q: What is your most recent project / news?

A: I am focusing a lot of my time on understanding the role of surgical robotics in the healthcare systems of emerging markets. This is important to me as I believe that everyone who is a candidate for minimally invasive surgery should have it as an option, and have access to it. To reach these patients, it is essential to understand that while the surgery itself is the same, the needs of patients and physicians in each healthcare system differs as widely as we differ culturally from country to country. By understanding what patients and surgeons value, we can understand how to meet their needs.

Q: Could you tell us about a compelling use case using one of your human-centered technology?

A: The benefits of prostatectomy and hysterectomy are often discussed, but I’d like to highlight partial nephrectomy (only removing the cancerous portion of a kidney, rather than the entire kidney). Without a da Vinci System available for a robotic-assisted minimally invasive partial nephrectomy, it’s often the case that the patient faces the choice between either a minimally invasive total kidney removal, or an open surgery partial kidney removal. When the kidney is fully removed, the patient has less residual kidney capacity than they would if the remaining good portion of the kidney was left behind, and later in life this can lead to the need for chronic dialysis, which is hard on the patient and very costly to healthcare systems. When there’s access to a procedure with a da Vinci System, the patient no longer needs to choose between minimally invasive surgery and a partial nephrectomy, they can have both. It is a use case that strongly highlights how important it is to fully consider the long term outcomes of clinical choices.

Q: What lessons have you learned from your customers so far?

A: That it is not enough to just listen to what they want. You can learn even more from observing them directly, and using observation to understand what they need in addition to what they want. Some of our most popular innovations have come from observing and identifying improvements that may not have been thought possible.

Q: What surprised you on the 2015 robotics market?

A: The near universal consensus shown by many of the major players in healthcare that surgical robotics is going to be an important part of our healthcare future. Intuitive Surgical has known this for a long time, but 2015 was the year in which many major medical devices makers announced plans to bring their own versions of these technologies to the market. Established medical device companies coming off the sidelines after 15 years and announcing investments in surgical robotics is a strong validation for the market.

Get a glimpse of the future of robotics

If you’d like to learn more about the future of robotics, I invite you to attend the Innorobo Keynote on May 25 in Paris: “Impact and challenges of the robotics revolution – Horizon 2030”. In the Foresight session, Rodolphe Gelin (Aldebaran Robotics), Corinna Lathan (AnthroTronix) and Prathima Manohar (The Urban Vision) will discuss:

  • Do robots have to care for us? Be part of our lives?
  • How will they affect the way we live (cities, hospitals, homes, etc.)?

Register now to attend this enlightening session.


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