This week at the Medicine Meets Virtual-Reality Conference in Long Beach, California medical educators from the Banner Good Samaritan Hospital in Phoenix presented a paper describing how surgeons improved their skills. Using Wii game technology, surgical residents who played the game Marble Mania in between stints in the operating room, had strikingly better operative performance than those who didn’t play.

Using “cyber gloves”, a tool that tracks surgeon’s movements as they operate, the researchers were able to assess each doctor’s performance. Those who played the game averaged 48% better than those who didn’t.

This is the next-generation gaming; the skills required to play these games helps develop delicate hand muscles and coordination skills. The game is clearly a valuable tool in helping surgeons work faster and more accurately, it also makes it easier to train doctors (surely dentists will follow), in the developing world. I add this cautionary note; it’s not just good hands that make a surgeon, it’s a good heart that connects them personally with their patients that will make them healers.

It doesn’t matter how many technically competent cardiovascular surgeons there are to unclog your coronary arteries, if they don’t inspire you to change your behaviors you will likely get sick again. If you don’t stop smoking, drinking, stressing out, eating poorly, and not exercising, you’ll be back within seven years (if you survive the next attack at all). The doctors who touch your heart will get you to become the principal agent in your continued health.

There is not yet a Wii game that awakens a doctor’s soul to improve their ability to reach out and touch patients with an open heart. So in the meantime I suggest this alternative; go away somewhere, a place that fills you with awe, it could be a mountaintop, cave, or ocean; someplace that separates you from your ordinary reality and makes you gasp in amazement. A place where you recognize it’s not all about you, that you are connected in some soulful way to something other than yourself and you are not alone.