Seventh grader at Our Lady of the Assumption School in Carmichael is youngest presenter at scientific meeting

Alessandra "Lexi" Mauricio, a seventh grader at Our Lady of the Assumption School in Carmichael, presented her completed research at The American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists (AAGL) 49th Annual Global Congress on Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery (MIGS), held virtually, Nov. 6-14. AAGL’s Congress, the premier scientific conference for gynecologic surgeons from around the world, offers high-quality education and cutting-edge best practices in MIGS.

Like all presenters seeking to share their research findings at the prestigious AAGL Congress, Lexi submitted an abstract summarizing her research. All abstracts submitted for consideration are meticulously graded by a scientific committee of expert surgeons who carefully select the lineup of presentations chosen for the AAGL’s Annual Congress. The 12-year-old’s abstract, “Do Children That Play Video Games Perform Better in Surgery?”, was selected for video presentation, making her the youngest presenter to present at a professional medical conference. 

Lexi also took first prize at the COVID-19 STEM fair in Sacramento recently, and to honor Our Lady of the Assumption School, donated the prize purse to the school.

Lexi, who aspires to become a pediatric surgeon, grew up attending medical conferences with her parents, Dennis and Arminda. Her family belongs to Our Lady of Assumption Parish. Her father, Dennis Mauricio, is a gynecologic oncology fellow at the Yale School of Medicine and Arminda is an obstetrician-gynecologist. Arminda guided Lexi along during the actual experiment (as the qualified scientist required by the STEM Fair rules). These experiences, encouragement from her parents and teachers, and her passion for science and learning, inspired her to begin her own research at age 11.

Finding that no study had ever investigated the laparoscopic surgical skills of children, Lexi set out to assess the impact of video game playing on surgical skill development. Lexi recruited 32 of her 11-year-old classmates who participated in the one-month experiment utilizing a laparoscopic trainer box paired with age-appropriate timed tasks. She then gathered and computed the data using grade-school mathematics. The study determined that children who spent an “average to above-average” amount of time playing video games performed better in completing a designed age-appropriate surgical task compared to children that play less. Lexi also documented other comparisons and analyses: older versus younger kids, gender, hand-dominance, musical players, and degree and type of video game experience.

According to Lexi, “The future of medicine and surgery relies on the next generation, and that is us, the children. Our findings may be used to guide the creation of games that promote hand-eye coordination skills that are important in surgery. Furthermore, the results may be used by institutions in formulating curriculum that enhance visual-motor skills in children.”

Lexi’s research data was submitted to Yale University for further bio-statistical analysis. This new analysis, paired with Lexi’s analysis and the body of research, was in Lexi’s video presentation at the AAGL Global Congress. With an endearing exuberance and humility, Lexi exclaims, “This year, I was at the California Regional Spelling Bee, the Sacramento Academic Decathlon, and my essay won first place at school. But AAGL’s acceptance of this research is my highest accomplishment! Recently, I completed leadership, engineering, and graphic design courses at the Summer Institute for the Gifted. There, I created PowerPoint videos, that luckily prepared me for the AAGL conference!”

Last month, Lexi began writing a manuscript for submission to medical journals. Her manuscript will be in its authentic, pure, grade-school level style of writing while presenting real medical content. Lexi shares, “I hope to inspire other young students to be involved, and conduct their own investigations, in the field of medicine and surgery.”

The theme of the AAGL’s 2020 Virtual Congress, “Breaking Barriers,” represents overcoming the many barriers presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Lexi’s proud father, Dennis, reflects, “Lexi serves as one of the many inspirations who attest that anyone can succeed at any age and at any time, even during COVID. The most important attribute about Lexi, though, is that she continues to be a humble and happy person.”

AAGL is an international professional medical association of laparoscopic surgeons and the global leader in minimally invasive gynecologic surgery. AAGL’s mission is to elevate the quality and safety of health care for women through excellence in clinical practice, education, research, innovation, and advocacy. Since 1971, the AAGL has educated the world’s finest surgeons and facilitated a global exchange of information regarding gynecological breakthroughs and best practices to improve women’s health worldwide.