Department of Surgery

Surgical Education

Charles Gray Watson Surgical Education Center

Traditionally, surgical residents trained and acquired skills exclusively in the operating room. For decades, this model has produced well-trained surgeons. The shift towards minimally invasive procedures, including laparoscopic, thoracoscopic, and endovascular techniques, has promoted a more rapid recovery. In order to continue to provide outstanding patient care, optimally train surgical residents, and foster further innovations, much of the training of residents and faculty must occur outside the operating room. Operative techniques must be practiced and mastered with computer-assisted technology, utilizing both dry and wet laboratory practice modules, prior to involvement in clinical operative care. The Charles Gray Watson Surgical Education Center provides optimal training of the next generation of surgeons and medical students.

Named for Charles Gray Watson, MD, a former Professor of Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh and mentor to generations of medical students and surgical trainees, the Charles Gray Watson Surgical Education Center offers surgical residents and medical students an array of sophisticated educational and training tools, including:

  • Four computer-equipped work stations that give users electronic access to library resources, medical databases, electronic medical records, and the residency program education website.
  • A lecture hall with a "smart" podium, equipped with SMART board and electronic access to radiographic studies and other useful images, enables residents to learn and share in a collaborative atmosphere.

Surgical Skills Lab

The skills lab allows residents and students to practice a variety of operations in a safe laboratory setting before utilizing them in the operating room. It features:

  • Virtual reality simulators for acquiring laparoscopic and endoscopic skills. The laparoscopic simulator features haptic feedback. It allows residents to practice basic tasks to build hand-eye coordination, bimanual dexterity, and three-dimensional manipulation. There is an intracorporeal suturing module and modules for laparoscopic cholecystectomy, laparoscopic ventral hernia repair, and laparoscopic gastric bypass.
  • Fundamentals of Laparoscopic Surgery (FLS) trainer boxes and instrumentation. Residents are able to practice the five required skills and are tested annually. Passing the skills and cognitive tests is required prior to taking the American Board of Surgery certification exam. We are now a certified FLS testing center.
  • Skills sessions held throughout the year include basic knot tying and suturing, bowel anastomoses, laparoscopic suturing and stapling, and FLS skills training.

Robotics simulators are accessible at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System and Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC to allow residents to develop their robotics skills and to acquire intracorporeal suturing skills.


  • Morbidity and mortality conferences are held every Monday. The conferences are connected in real time with UPMC Shadyside, UPMC St. Margaret, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, and Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC, allowing for participation from residents and faculty who are outside of UPMC Presbyterian.
  • Wednesday education conferences occur weekly for PGY 1-2 and PGY 3-5 residents.