Flushing fifth-grader dubs $2M surgical robot ‘Leonardo Jr.’

THE COURIER/Photos by Alina Suriel

The subject of this christening ceremony has a circuit board.

Fifth-grader Karla Barreta from Flushing’s P.S. 22 won a school-wide contest to name the newest da Vinci surgical robot at Flushing Hospital Medical Center. The final pick was selected by Flushing Hospital’s robotic surgeons and administrators, with “Leonardo Jr.,” beating out a flood of other submissions.

“I feel very proud of myself and also very excited because I’m representing my school and my class,” said Barreta.

Children from Barreta’s class were invited to enjoy a celebration with pizza donated from Trattoria 35 in Bayside, and a live demonstration of how to work the machine. Each child then got a chance to sit in the operating chair and experience what it would be like to perform surgery with the help of the $2 million robot.

“Some of the kids were so keenly absorbing every word that was being said about the robots. They’re fascinated by it,” said class teacher Jennifer Kim. “I can see some future surgeons in this class, I really can, and I think today’s experience is really going to cement that.”

The robot is used in the new robotic surgery division that opened at Flushing Hospital in October 2014. It can be useful in a wide array of different types of surgery, including general surgery, gall bladder procedures and bariatric surgery, among others.

“It’s a tremendous asset,” said Dr. Roberto Cantu Jr., who added that time with the machine is especially sought after because it is the only one of its kind owned by the medical facility. “There are certain situations in which it is the standard of care.”

According to the robot’s informational website, the da Vinci surgical system aims to enable surgeons to operate with enhanced vision, precision, dexterity and control with the use of a magnified 3-D high-definition vision system and tiny instruments that bend and rotate far greater than the human wrist. As a result, surgeons are able to operate through fewer and smaller incisions which can result in less blood loss and faster recovery times.