Participant group photo

54 High School Students from Buffalo & Detroit Complete Junior Robotic Surgeon Challenge

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The future is now for 54 students who attend 30 different schools in the Buffalo, N.Y., and Detroit, Mich., areas. These promising young people competed in the 3rd annual Junior Robotic Surgeon Challenge, hosted by Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. The program trains high school students in the basics of robot-assisted surgery using the same curriculum used to train surgeons.

The program, which also incorporates teambuilding, character development and leadership skills, expanded this year with the participation of the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit.

“These students received hands-on experience at one of the top robotic surgical centers in the United States,” says program co-creator Khurshid Guru, MD, who also serves as Vice Chair of the Department of Urology and Director of Robotic Surgery at Roswell Park. “Roswell Park is proud to be at the forefront of offering advanced training to the next generation of health professionals and to offer these bright young people a chance to explore where their competencies and interests lie.”

Eleven students from the Detroit area participated in a parallel pilot program under the direction of James Peabody, MD, based at Henry Ford Hospital, the first center in the world to develop a robotic surgery program. “Students learned and mastered the same laparoscopic skills taught to surgical residents and fellows. This highly challenging program offers these talented students the opportunity to expand their skills as they prepare for a future in medicine,” says Dr. Peabody.

The four-week program concluded with a Robotic Surgery Challenge testing the skills of two top finalists, who competed by performing robot-assisted surgery on a synthetic bladder in a Roswell Park operating room. An onsite audience observed the finalists’ progress via telecast, with Roswell Park surgery experts rating their performance. Recent Newfane High School graduate Sean Kilcullen took first place, and the second-place finisher was Cameron Watt of Grand Island Senior High School. They earned scholarships of $2,500 and $1,000, respectively.

All challengers received certification in introductory robot-assisted surgery and in basic life support.

Also recognized for their performance were the following Junior Robotic Surgeon Challenge participants, who received scholarships of $100 to $500:

  • Best Practicum
    • Hunter Brzozowiec (Nichols School, NY)
  • Best “Mock MCAT” Score
    • Sean Kilcullen (Newfane High School, NY)
    • Cameron Watt  (Grand Island High School, NY)
  • Champion of Ethics
    • Hamdi Yakub (Buffalo Academy of Science Charter School, NY)
    • Tanyeem Shaik (Salem High School, MI)
  • Champion of Compassion
    • Danielle Trubish (Buffalo Academy of the Sacred Heart, NY)
    • Cloe Nazeer (Plymouth High School, MI)
  • Champion of Leadership
    • Alison Graziano (Nichols School, NY)
    • Feehan Sultan (Canton High School, MI)
  • Champion of Teamwork
    • Supriya Pandit (Williamsville North High School, NY)
    • Lucas Harden (Plymouth High School, MI)
  • Best Team Performance
    • Ananth Das (Williamsville East High School, NY)
    • Emily Augustyniak (Nardin Academy High School, NY)
    • Lila Marie Trunzo (Niagara Wheatfield High School, NY)
    • Madison Meranto (Health Sciences Charter School, NY)
    • Mary Bala (Mount Mercy Academy, NY)
    • Mitchell Kubiak (St. Joseph Collegiate Institute, NY)
    • Robert Siejak (Clarence High School, NY)

The program was designed by Dr. Guru and Eileen O’Brien, PhD, of Learning Triangle Labs LLC and was organized by Erinn Field of Roswell Park’s Applied Technology Laboratory for Advanced Surgery (ATLAS).

Educational partners for the 2016 program were the Albright Knox Art Gallery; Buffalo Zoo; Moog Inc.; Performance Management Partners Inc.; Say Yes to Education; and the University at Buffalo. Additionally, three sponsorship partners provided opportunities for students in need of financial assistance and provided better scholarship opportunities: The Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo; New Era Cap Co.; and the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation.


The mission of Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center is to understand, prevent and cure cancer. Founded in 1898, Roswell Park is one of the first cancer centers in the country to be named a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center and remains the only facility with this designation in Upstate New York. The Institute is a member of the prestigious National Comprehensive Cancer Network, an alliance of the nation’s leading cancer centers; maintains affiliate sites; and is a partner in national and international collaborative programs. For more information, visit, call 1-800-ROSWELL (1-800-767-9355) or email Follow Roswell Park on Facebook and Twitter.

Media Contact

Deborah Pettibone, Public Information Specialist