Skip to Content
Humans and technology

Tomorrow’s surgeons are learning by doing in VR

June 12, 2018

Virtual-reality training platforms are expanding into some of America’s top medical residency programs.

Some background: Orthopedic training requires a 14-year commitment after high school to become an independent surgeon. But even then some surgeons can come out ill-prepared. “The experience of the trainee, especially in residency and fellowship, is completely dependent upon chance,” says Jonathan Schoenecker, an assistant professor of orthopedics at Vanderbilt University, one of the schools adopting an instructional VR program.

The news: Eight US residency programs—Columbia, UCLA, Harvard, and Vanderbilt among them—have committed to bring Osso VR, a virtual-reality teaching program, into their schools. “The expansion of virtual reality training into residencies is a major milestone,” says Justin Barad, Osso VR’s CEO. “It is an acknowledgement that there are training gaps that exist that are not adequately being met by more traditional technologies and methods.” A similar tool made by ImmersiveTouch has found its way into the residency program at Johns Hopkins.

Learning in VR: Virtual reality is increasingly being used for training in a variety of industries. Walmart even used headsets to prepare associates for last year’s Black Friday rush.

Why it matters: With robots taking learning opportunities away from young doctors, new tools like these are needed. “This will not only greatly enhance the ability to produce skilled orthopedic surgeons, but also reduce the time of training and increase the capacity to assess skill,” says Schoenecker. “Most importantly, this should lead to safer clinical practice.”

Deep Dive

Humans and technology

Meet the people who use Notion to plan their whole lives

The workplace tool’s appeal extends far beyond organizing work projects. Many users find it’s just as useful for managing their free time.

A new operating system for health care

A reimagined IT infrastructure for health care could reorient us from sickness to wellness.

The emergent industrial metaverse

An interface between the real and digital worlds will transform how we work, live, and interact.

How to teach kids who flip between book and screen

Technology is changing how we read—and that means we need to rethink how we teach.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.