Training Program in Surgical Innovation

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


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, students have access to experienced clinician-scientists and operating rooms equipped with intraoperative advanced three-dimensional imaging capability.

The Program brings an organized, systematic approach to addressing unsolved problems in surgery, rather than leave them to chance or trial-and-error.

Mirza Paulsen

Leadership & Mentors

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

  • biomedical engineering
  • surgical translation
  • innovation & entrepreneurship

Each student is assigned to a trio of these mentors for guidance through the program.

The Center for Surgical Innovation (CSI)

Guided by Professor Paulsen as Scientific Director and Dr. Mirza as Medical Director, CSI is a 12,000-sq-feet facility with surgical, imaging and laboratory space designed for conducting research. CSI houses twin ORs with adjacent diagnostic and interventional rooms that share 3T MRI and 64-slice CT scanners which move into the ORs during surgical procedures. The diagnostic rooms also allow imaging studies to occur immediately prior to surgery. The larger OR also has robotic angiography, and the surgical table rotates 270 degrees, allowing MR, CT, and fluoroscopy to occur during the same case.

Williamson conference


TPSI students work directly with experienced entrepreneurs to recognize opportunities for innovation 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 provides trainees with the skills and training necessary to pursue careers in biomedical engineering innovation and entrepreneurship in industry as well as academia.



Outside Dartmouth's engineering school, significant interactions occur with the 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 the Tuck School of Business through its Health Care Initiative and Center for Private Equity and Entrepreneurship.

Students can also benefit from several NIH-funded research programs such as at the Dartmouth Clinical and Translational Science Institute (SYNERGY).


Trainees either challenge and advance the current understanding in an area of biomedical engineering or define a new initiative with the endorsement of participating faculty.


TPSI Graduates:

  • Are prepared to engage in original research at the level expected of a post-doctoral fellow in biomedical engineering;
  • Are exposed to multiple surgical procedures and specialties similar to a medical student participating in surgical rotations;
  • Gain understanding of business entrepreneurship comparable to an MBA student interested in the biomedical industry.

Timeline & Funding

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

Year 1

  • Funding from Thayer
  • Basic coursework
  • Surgical rotations class completed

Year 2

  • Funding from TPSI
  • Limited coursework
  • Mentoring Committee formed
  • Qualifying exams completed
  • Thesis topic identified
  • Research begins

Year 3

  • Research continues

Year 4/5

  • Research continues
  • Innovation Program internship defined
  • Support usually provided by faculty grants or institutional funds during the Innovation Program internship


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.)


Trainees are selected from applicants to Dartmouth's PhD Innovation Program expressing interest in TPSI.


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

Current PhD Students

Current Dartmouth engineering PhD students may also apply to TPSI during their first or second year of the regular PhD program. These students are advised to consult with their advisor, Professor Paulsen, and Professor Fossum prior to applying.