May 23, 2019

UCalgary neurosurgeon wins Governor General's Innovation Award

Garnette Sutherland created neuroArm, world’s first image-guided neurosurgery robot

Author

Marta Cyperling, University Relations

Garnette Sutherland created the world’s first robot capable of performing neurosurgery on a patient inside an MR machine.

Garnette Sutherland created the world’s first robot capable of performing neurosurgery on a patient.

University of Calgary

UCalgary’s Dr. Garnette Sutherland, MD, is one of six recipients from across Canada being recognized this year for their groundbreaking work and excellence in innovation. Last week, Sutherland’s work in developing innovative technologies to treat patients and improve clinical care earned him national recognition with the Governor General’s Innovation Award.

“The award resonates so very well with what we do in our little sphere, creating newer technologies to improve patient care,” says Sutherland, professor of neurosurgery in the Cumming School of Medicine. “Receiving this award is a most humbling experience and reflects well upon all the people and groups who came together to make something special happen here in Calgary.”  

Among Sutherland’s innovations is the high field intraoperative magnetic resonance imaging (iMRI) system, which is based on a movable magnet that provides surgeons with detailed, 3D MR images during an operation. This technology has been used to treat more than 40,000 neurosurgical patients worldwide.

Building on the iMRI technology, Sutherland created an image-guided robotic system called neuroArm, the world’s first robot capable of performing neurosurgery on a patient inside an MR machine. In May 2008, neuroArm made history when it was first used clinically. This landmark operation was the first time a robot was used to perform microsurgery, removing a brain tumour from a 21-year-old patient. 

NeuroArm continues to be used on patients at Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary. The technology promises to make surgeries less invasive and improve patient care by creating a digital record of surgery and standardizing procedures. This would help improve patient outcomes and reduce health-care costs. Sutherland and his team are well on their way towards developing neuroArmPLUS, the next generation neuroArm — a compact, efficient and intelligent tele-robotic system for widespread adoption. 

In May 2018,  Governor General Julie Payette visited the neuroArm lab and toured the 3.0T iMRI Operating Suite at the Foothills Hospital, where neuroArm is housed.

General Julie Payette visited the neuroArm lab and toured the 3.0T iMRI Operating Suite in 2018.

University of Calgary

“UCalgary researchers think differently to drive innovation. Dr. Sutherland’s work is a great example of this, and it has led to a tremendous impact on medical imaging at the local, national and international levels,” says Ed McCauley, president and vice-chancellor, University of Calgary. “I commend Dr. Sutherland and his team for their hard work, and I am delighted to congratulate him on receiving this prestigious award.”

Sutherland has won a number of awards for his work including the NASA Exceptional Technology Medal in 2015, and he was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2011.

Established in 2016, the Governor General’s Innovation Awards (GGIA) inspire Canadians to embrace innovation and to emulate innovative, entrepreneurial risk-takers who have developed new or better ways of creating value, and who are having a meaningful impact on our quality of life. Awarded annually in May, the awards recognize and celebrate trailblazers who help shape our society and our future, and who inspire the next generation of innovators

Dr. Garnette Sutherland is a professor in the Department of Clinical Neurosciences, at the Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary, member of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute and Arnie Charbonneau Cancer Institute. He is also the project lead for the Image-Guided Medical Robotics Program — Project neuroArm.