The innovations of Yulun Wang concerning remotely operated surgical robots and his development and application of telemedicine systems have improved the quality of healthcare around the world, providing care to patients who otherwise would not have access and lowering the costs of treatment. Pursuing his vision that surgical robotic tools could enable surgeons to perform procedures with increased dexterity and control compared to conventional hand-held instruments, Wang brought medical robots to mainstream research and development and established the role of the surgical robot for minimally invasive surgery. Surgical robots provide the advantages of precision, smaller incisions, decreased blood loss, less pain, and quicker healing time for patients undergoing robotic-assisted surgeries. Wang invented the Automated Endoscopic System for Optical Positioning (AESOP). AESOP is a voice-controlled robotic arm that can hold and move a laparoscope for a surgeon, and it was the first FDA-cleared surgical robot. He also developed the ZEUS robotic surgical system, which performed the world’s first trans-Atlantic surgery. Many of the technical innovations developed for ZEUS were incorporated into the very popular da Vinci surgical robot. To improve patient access to quality treatment and to fight the rising costs of healthcare, Wang created the first remote-presence robotic system to enable a clinician to be in two places at one time to perform medical triaging, diagnosis, and consultations from a distance. He applied this system to a tele-stroke treatment network in which a hub hospital places remote presence robots in smaller spoke hospitals to provide these hospitals and their patients with access to stroke specialists who can remotely examine and care for stroke victims. Wang’s telemedicine system has also been used for intensive care and psychiatric clinical consults. The surgical robotics and telemedicine innovations that Wang helped to develop have now benefited several million patients—and are continuing to help over a million patients every year.
A member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering and recipient of the 2005 Innovation Award from the American Telemedicine Association, Wang is chairman and founder of InTouch Health, Goleta, CA, USA.