Healthcare's biggest problem? Its training system, says Dr. Justin Barad

Shayna Korol -   Print  |
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By 2020, medical knowledge is expected to double every 73 days, compared to every 50 years in the 1950s1. As the amount residents need to learn grows exponentially, capping the resident work week at 80 hours has lost residents about a year of training time. According to Justin Barad, MD, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon and founder and CEO of Osso VR, healthcare's biggest problem today is its training system.

Surgical education in the U.S. is based on an apprenticeship model developed by William Halsted, MD, in the early twentieth century. The healthcare landscape has since changed dramatically: inputting information into EHRs can take up 50 percent of trainees' time. Surgeons may worry about residents operating on their patients, as they are incentivized to perform surgery more quickly in a value-driven environment. As trainees, residents take longer.

Advancements in robotic surgery have further limited trainees' hands-on learning opportunities.2 According to a study in the Annals of Surgery, about one-third of general surgery residents in the U.S. are unable to operate independently by the time they graduate.

Surgical education in the U.S. involves four years of college, four years of medical school, between five to seven years of residency, and often two to three years of fellowship training. When Dr. Barad was a fourth-year resident at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, he spent the morning writing notes and then watching surgeries in the operating room. "It felt like spending years just to get the opportunity to start practicing," Dr. Barad said in an interview with Becker's Spine Review. "I wondered: what if we could cut down on residency?"

"We can make life better as a trainee," he said. "The old ways are no longer the best ways. Right now, trainees are getting more burnt out than ever. They're doing administrative work, and they're not actually mastering their craft. We need to work less hours to learn more efficiently — to work smarter, not harder."

Dr. Barad believes in harnessing technology to solve seemingly intractable medical problems. A lifelong aspiring innovator with a background in biomedical engineering, he founded Osso VR, a virtual reality training solution for residency programs focused on eliminating training gaps for orthopedic and spine procedures. "Orthopedics as a specialty is very technology-heavy," he said, "and you need to understand the mechanics behind the procedures to perform them effectively."

Virtual reality could be the way to facilitate that understanding, combat burnout and improve the quality of medical education. "It could be a real game changer for providers and patients," Dr. Barad said. "On a global scale, it could give surgeons around the world access to training resources so they can bring the safest and most effective care possible to their patients."


Densen, P. (2011). Challenges and Opportunities Facing Medical Education. Transactions of the Clinical and Climatological Association, 122, 48-58.

2 Beane, M. (2018). Shadow Learning: Building Robotic Surgical Skill When Approved Means Fail. Administrative Science Quarterly.

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