Andy S. Ding

The temporal bone houses an incredible amount of tiny, geometrically complex anatomical structures that are important for hearing and balance. Surgical access in this region requires drilling through varying densities of bone and identifying surgical landmarks to avoid damaging hidden critical anatomy. Due to these inherent limitations in visibility and maneuverability, temporal bone surgery poses a risk for accidental damage to surrounding anatomy, which can cause hearing loss, vertigo, altered taste sensation and facial paralysis.

One possible approach for mitigating accidental damage to surrounding structures is using intraoperative image-guided robotic systems that can determine the location of robotically controlled instruments relative to patient imaging and enforce safety barriers around contacting critical anatomy. A key obstacle to utilizing the full potential of these technologies is the lack of streamlined methods for labeling critical anatomy on patient CT imaging. While manually segmenting surgically relevant landmarks on preoperative imaging can be performed, it is extremely time intensive and prone to inter-reader variability. To overcome these limitations, I have developed an efficient, accurate and automated pipeline for segmenting structures in temporal bone CT scans under the guidance of Dr. Francis Creighton and Dr. Russell Taylor in the Laboratory for Computational Sensing + Robotics. This automated pipeline has the potential to provide robust anatomical information for developing immersive virtual surgical simulators, patient-specific anatomical models, population-based shape analyses of the temporal bone and improved guidance for surgical navigation systems.

Questions & Answers

Why did you choose Johns Hopkins for your work? I chose to attend the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine because of its long history of training future leaders in medicine and surgery. With world leaders in robotics and machine learning, Johns Hopkins has provided myriad opportunities for me to pursue my own research interests in surgical innovation. What does receiving this award mean to you personally and professionally? Do you have any connection with the particular award you received? It is an incredible privilege to receive this award in honor of Paul Ehrlich, a Nobel laureate and biomedical pioneer who developed the frameworks for modern chemotherapy and diagnostic staining techniques. Dr. Ehrlich has left behind a massive legacy that has influenced the field of medicine for generations. This award inspires me to continue forging my academic journey and building my own legacy in computer-aided surgery. Learning about the achievements of past award recipients, I am humbled to be in the company of great scientific minds. What contributed to your project’s success? (Special skills, interests, opportunities, guidance, etc.) I am immensely grateful for the guidance that I have received from my mentors in the lab. Dr. Francis Creighton has been a beacon of support both personally and professionally, providing key advice for success during residency and beyond. Dr. Russell Taylor, often regarded as the “father of medical robotics” for his work on robotic orthopaedic surgery, has shown me time after time the value of maintaining curiosity and passion in research. In addition to these wonderful mentors, I have been fortunate to work with incredible graduate students, medical students and postdoctoral fellows — Alex Lu, Max Li, Adnan Munawar, Justin Kim and Nimesh Nagururu, among others — along the way. What thoughts do you have about Young Investigators’ Day itself, as a celebration of the roles students and fellows play in research at Hopkins? Behind successful and influential research are often students and fellows keeping the ship afloat. Although rewarding and exciting, research requires consistent dedication and protection from burnout. When experiments or projects go awry, it can be difficult to maintain motivation to push forward. I am delighted that Young Investigators’ Day recognizes and appreciates the hard work of trainees who contribute to groundbreaking research at Johns Hopkins. What has been your best/most memorable experience while at Hopkins? One of my most memorable experiences at Hopkins was when my teammate Alex Lu and I successfully implemented our segmentation pipeline. After months of coding, debugging and troubleshooting, we had finally reached a point where we could present promising results to our lab. From this singular project, we have been spawned a variety of clinically relevant research endeavors that push the boundaries of computer-aided surgery. I cannot emphasize enough the value of Alex Lu’s contributions to push this project forward. What are your plans over the next year or so? Graduating, looking for faculty positions, etc.? After graduation, I will be continuing my training at Johns Hopkins as an otolaryngology–head and neck surgery resident, with plans to pursue a fellowship in neurotology. Tell me something interesting about yourself that makes you unique. Do you have any special hobbies, interests or life experiences? Over the past several years, I have developed a deep appreciation for sake, a Japanese beverage made by fermenting polished rice. Eager to learn more about sake, I recently brewed and bottled my own sake and enjoyed it with family and friends.