Dr Obinna Chukwudi Igwilo – Nigeria’s Pioneer of Advanced Robotic Surgery

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In September 2019, a milestone surgery using the Da Vinci Robotic Technology, was performed at Womack Army Medical Centre, in collaboration with Fayetteville Veteran Affairs Medical Centre (VAMC) in North Carolina, USA. This remarkable surgical procedure was carried out by Dr Obinna Chukwudi Igwilo, a Nigerian trained surgeon.

Although the feat was the first for Fayetteville VAMC, , it was a familiar procedure for Igwilo, as he had been performing robotic surgeries since 2014. In this case however, it was his first as well as America’s most complex major surgery employing the use of the advance robotic technology – Da Vinci Surgical System. The outstanding achievement by Obinna Igwilo cements Nigeria’s place among countries with medical experts in advance robotic surgery.

The procedure
The Da Vinci surgical technology used by Obinna Igwilo is a state-of-the-art technology designed to enable surgeons perform complex surgeries through minor incisions, using minimally invasive technique with the surgeon at the console operating with system-assisted clear vision and precision.
With Da Vinci technology, the surgeon’s hand motion maintains accurate movements in four robotic arms operating inside the body of the patient. Because the surgical technology is precise and minimally invasive, post-surgical bleeding is minimised, less post-operative pain and faster recovery is achieved, while hospital stay by the patient is drastically shortened, leading to reduction in hospital cost. These benefits are responsible for the rapid adoption of the robotic technology by hospitals in the US.
Da Vinci technology was approved by the FDA in 2000 as the first surgical system technology for general laparoscopic surgery in US hospitals. Ever since, it has remained the leading commercially available cutting-edge robotic surgical system.

Background and Education
Obinna Igwilo was born in Abia State, South-East Nigeria. Although he is a native of Ozubulu in Anambra state, he grew up in Aba where he had his secondary education and graduated from Ngwa High School in 1980 with distinction. Indeed he was among the best students in his class and was nicknamed “Archimedes” – after the Greek Mathematician and Physicist – because of the ease with which he handled mathematics. He got admission to the College of Medicine and Surgery, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and graduated top of his class in 1986 with MB.BCh degree.
After graduating from medical school, Igwilo proceeded for his medical internship at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu, Nigeria. He then moved to the United Kingdom in 1987 for his clinical internship at Whipps Cross University Hospital, UK. He completed his residence in general surgery at the University of Illinois Metropolitan Group Hospitals, Chicago (UIC-MGH) in 2001.
Igwilo has had many other exposures in Europe and America, where he gained specialised skills in endocrine surgery, robotic surgery, advanced laparoscopic or minimally invasive surgery, as well as colorectal and endoscopic procedures. He is board-certified in general surgery and also a member of the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons (SAGES).
Igwilo is also a Fellow of the Royal Colleges of Surgeons, Glasgow and Edinburg, and American College of Surgeons. He has had over 34 years of experience and has worked for a number of medical institutions in Europe and in the US, including Cape Fear Valley Medical Center Fayetteville, North Carolina, USA and Illinois Masonic Medical Center, USA.
He is currently working as a consultant General Surgeon at Veteran Affairs Medical Center and WAMC, and has been appraised by his employers for his “active engagement with the training of medical students and surgical residents while also serving as clinical Assistant Professor of Surgery with Campbell University School of Osteopathic medicine”.
Igwilo’s robotic surgery remains a historic achievement, being the very first to be performed in the 80 years history of Fayetteville Veteran Affairs Medical Centre, Fayetteville (VAMC). This feat was made possible by the collaboration of Fayetteville VAMC and Womack Army Medical Centre in Fayetteville through an ongoing initiative to provide expanded healthcare services to veteran affairs and US Department of Defence (DOD) beneficiaries through shared staff, resources and facilities.
Igwilo’s exploits in medical practice abroad has brought pride and inspiration to many Nigerians. This groundbreaking surgery at Fayetteville bears clear testimony to the leading roles being played by Nigerian doctors in the US and around the world in promoting and advancing healthcare.

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In September 2019, a milestone surgery using the Da Vinci Robotic Technology, was performed at Womack Army Medical Centre, in collaboration with Fayetteville Veteran Affairs Medical Centre (VAMC) in North Carolina, USA. This remarkable surgical procedure was carried out by Dr Obinna Chukwudi Igwilo, a Nigerian trained surgeon.
Although the feat was the first for Fayetteville VAMC, , it was a familiar procedure for Igwilo, as he had been performing robotic surgeries since 2014. In this case however, it was his first as well as America’s most complex major surgery employing the use of the advance robotic technology – Da Vinci Surgical System. The outstanding achievement by Obinna Igwilo cements Nigeria’s place among countries with medical experts in advance robotic surgery.

The procedure
The Da Vinci surgical technology used by Obinna Igwilo is a state-of-the-art technology designed to enable surgeons perform complex surgeries through minor incisions, using minimally invasive technique with the surgeon at the console operating with system-assisted clear vision and precision.
With Da Vinci technology, the surgeon’s hand motion maintains accurate movements in four robotic arms operating inside the body of the patient. Because the surgical technology is precise and minimally invasive, post-surgical bleeding is minimised, less post-operative pain and faster recovery is achieved, while hospital stay by the patient is drastically shortened, leading to reduction in hospital cost. These benefits are responsible for the rapid adoption of the robotic technology by hospitals in the US.
Da Vinci technology was approved by the FDA in 2000 as the first surgical system technology for general laparoscopic surgery in US hospitals. Ever since, it has remained the leading commercially available cutting-edge robotic surgical system.

Background and Education
Obinna Igwilo was born in Abia State, South-East Nigeria. Although he is a native of Ozubulu in Anambra state, he grew up in Aba where he had his secondary education and graduated from Ngwa High School in 1980 with distinction. Indeed he was among the best students in his class and was nicknamed “Archimedes” – after the Greek Mathematician and Physicist – because of the ease with which he handled mathematics. He got admission to the College of Medicine and Surgery, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and graduated top of his class in 1986 with MB.BCh degree.
After graduating from medical school, Igwilo proceeded for his medical internship at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu, Nigeria. He then moved to the United Kingdom in 1987 for his clinical internship at Whipps Cross University Hospital, UK. He completed his residence in general surgery at the University of Illinois Metropolitan Group Hospitals, Chicago (UIC-MGH) in 2001.
Igwilo has had many other exposures in Europe and America, where he gained specialised skills in endocrine surgery, robotic surgery, advanced laparoscopic or minimally invasive surgery, as well as colorectal and endoscopic procedures. He is board-certified in general surgery and also a member of the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons (SAGES).
Igwilo is also a Fellow of the Royal Colleges of Surgeons, Glasgow and Edinburg, and American College of Surgeons. He has had over 34 years of experience and has worked for a number of medical institutions in Europe and in the US, including Cape Fear Valley Medical Center Fayetteville, North Carolina, USA and Illinois Masonic Medical Center, USA.
He is currently working as a consultant General Surgeon at Veteran Affairs Medical Center and WAMC, and has been appraised by his employers for his “active engagement with the training of medical students and surgical residents while also serving as clinical Assistant Professor of Surgery with Campbell University School of Osteopathic medicine”.
Igwilo’s robotic surgery remains a historic achievement, being the very first to be performed in the 80 years history of Fayetteville Veteran Affairs Medical Centre, Fayetteville (VAMC). This feat was made possible by the collaboration of Fayetteville VAMC and Womack Army Medical Centre in Fayetteville through an ongoing initiative to provide expanded healthcare services to veteran affairs and US Department of Defence (DOD) beneficiaries through shared staff, resources and facilities.
Igwilo’s exploits in medical practice abroad has brought pride and inspiration to many Nigerians. This groundbreaking surgery at Fayetteville bears clear testimony to the leading roles being played by Nigerian doctors in the US and around the world in promoting and advancing healthcare.

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