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Surgical Training Track

The Training Program in Surgical Innovation (TPSI) is the first discipline-specific track within the PhD Innovation Program and provides students with a link to opportunities at Dartmouth-Hitchcock's Center for Surgical Innovation (CSI).

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TPSI offers a unique research environment and optimal scale for preparing trainees for careers in original surgical technology research with an emphasis on innovations aimed at improving the safety and outcomes of surgical procedures. At CSI, trainees will have access to experienced clinician-scientists and operating rooms equipped with intraoperative advanced three-dimensional imaging capability.

Participants must satisfy all requirements of the PhD Innovation Program — technical proficiency, technical breadth, specialization, professional competence, original research and innovation skills development — plus TPSI-specific training tailored to the surgical setting, including a surgical innovation internship. (A new surgical rotation course is also in development.) The program will bring an organized, systematic approach to address unsolved problems in surgery, rather than leave them to chance or trial-and-error.

TPSI's three program directors — Keith Paulsen, Sohail Mirza, and Eric Fossum — along with nearly 50 faculty mentors, are organized into three groups:

Each trainee will be assigned to a trio of these mentors for guidance through the program.

About the Center for Surgical Innovation (CSI)

Under the leadership of Professor Paulsen as Scientific Director and Dr. Mirza as Medical Director, CSI is a new 12,000-sq-feet facility consisting of surgical, imaging and laboratory space prioritized for research in which TPSI trainees will work. CSI houses twin ORs with adjacent diagnostic and interventional rooms that share 3T MRI and 64-slice CT scanners which move into the ORs for use during surgical procedures. The two diagnostic rooms allow imaging studies to occur immediately prior to surgery or minimally invasive interventional procedures to take place independent of surgery. The second, larger OR also has robotic angiography, and the surgical table rotates 270 degrees, allowing MR, CT, and fluoroscopy to occur during the same case.

Innovation & Entrepreneurship

Trainees will work directly with experienced entrepreneurs to develop intellectual property and commercialization pathways providing unprecedented opportunities to translate ideas rapidly from bench to practice in the surgical setting. They will learn to accelerate the progression of ideas from the early phases of prototype development, to small-scale testing and validation, to large-scale comparative effectiveness evaluation, commercialization, and dissemination into practice. 

More specifically, TPSI students will learn to recognize opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship in surgery driven by compassionate and careful evaluation of unmet patient needs and rigorous analysis of suboptimal patient outcomes, rather than simply by market opportunities. TPSI will provide trainees with the skills and training necessary to pursue careers in biomedical engineering innovation and entrepreneurship in industry as well as academia.


While trainees will be Thayer School students, significant interactions will occur with Dartmouth's Geisel School of Medicine, Dartmouth-Hitchcock's Departments of Surgery, Orthopaedics, Family Medicine, and The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, as well as Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business through its Health Care Initiative and Center for Private Equity and Entrepreneurship.

TPSI trainees will also take advantage of three NIH research programs at Dartmouth:

  1. National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) award for the Dartmouth Clinical and Translational Science Institute (SYNERGY);
  2. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) Multidisciplinary Clinical Research Center in Musculoskeletal Diseases;
  3. NIAMS Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Orthopaedic Resident Clinician/Researcher Program

Timeline / Funding / Outcomes

Completion of the Program will take approximately 4–5 years with various sources of financial support:

Trainees will challenge and advance current understanding in biomedical engineering areas of interest to participating faculty or define a new initiative which has the full endorsement of participating faculty.

Graduates of TPSI will:


Trainees will be selected from applicants to Thayer’s PhD Innovation Program expressing interest in TPSI. Admissions criteria include:

  1. Evidence of participation in multi-disciplinary and/or non-traditional learning opportunities;
  2. Demonstration of creativity and/or motivation and passion for translational research, innovation and entrepreneurship through specific extra-curricular activities;
  3. Articulation of a strong rationale for pursuing TPSI.

Students may also apply to the PhD Innovation Program/TPSI during their first or second year of regular PhD program study at Thayer, but are advised to consult with their advisor, Professor Paulsen, and Professor Fossum prior to applying.