Video Assisted Surgery Broadcast to 218 Students
On June 18, 2009, Drs. Sean Skinner and Joseph Iocono of the Pediatric Surgery Division performed a Video-Assisted Thoracic Surgery (VATS) procedure on a 3-year-old girl that was two-way broadcast to 218 high school students participating in a Summer Enrichment Program hosted by the UK Area Health Education Center (AHEC).
AHEC, a collaborative program between the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville, provides services in regions throughout Kentucky for the continuing education of healthcare professionals and citizens of the commonwealth. The Summer Enrichment Program is a six-week health careers residential camp. High school students with propensities for math and science are accepted and the program provides the opportunity to learn about a variety of careers in health professions and the academic requirements for pursuit of these careers. It is billed as a chance to “experience college before college.” There are approximately 12 AHEC programs for students scattered across Kentucky from Whitesburg to Hazard to Jackson to Hindman.
Students accepted into the Summer Enrichment Program at UK spend six weeks observing and learning from faculty, healthcare professionals and college students. They participate in a structured educational curriculum, have various hands-on activities, and meet with students enrolled in the Colleges of Medicine, Pharmacy, Dentistry, Nursing, Health Sciences and Public Health.
The Surgery Department’s contribution to the Summer Enrichment Program was a two-day event. A key contributor was Jim Hoskins of the Center for Advanced Training and Simulation (CATS), also known as the Minimally Invasive Surgery Lab. On June 17, the students joined Jim and third year surgery resident Levi Procter, MD. Levi offered a first hand look into what it takes to become a surgery resident and, among other things, how he has financed it. Jim instructed the students on various simulation and minimally invasive surgery techniques taught in the CATS lab. Jim also prepared the students for the following day when the VATS surgical procedure was two-way telecast from one of the UK operating rooms.
Video-Assisted Thoracoscopic Surgery is a minimally invasive surgical procedure used to diagnose and treat illness to organs in the chest cavity (thorax). During VATS, a tiny camera with a light source is inserted through a small incision between the ribs. A second small incision is used to insert special surgical instruments between the ribs into the chest cavity. Using the camera to guide the other instrument, minimally invasive surgical procedures are significantly easier on the body.
The two-way broadcast, or interactive videoconference, lasted 1 hour and 15 minutes; Dr. Skinner successfully excised a tumor from a three-year-old girl while Dr. Iocono provided the narration. The teleconference, a cooperative effort between Kentucky Telecare and the Deparment of Surgery, allowed the students essentially to look over the surgeons’ shoulders as the surgery was performed. Minimally invasive surgeries are by nature ideal for teleconferencing: the organs and disease are viewed by the surgeon on a monitor that is linked to the tiny camera. It follows that teleconferencing and broadcasting are ideal for teaching purposes.
Students viewing the procedure were the UK Summer Enrichment group of 23 plus 12 other AHEC groups organized across Kentucky. Some, such as the Rural Health Scholars in Morehead, had 3 students watching but the Clay County AHEC students in Manchester numbered 29. The students were able to see what Drs. Iocono and Skinner saw on the OR monitor and also ask questions during and after the procedure. ”The students had mature questions and insights,“ said Dr. Iocono.
This proximity to real surgery has a viable impact on students who are studying high school curricula. Science suddenly becomes real and this can result in a defining moment where the drive and motivation to succeed in science is realized.
“This type of broadcast is ideal for maintaining a high standard of care and optimizing the experience for learners,“ said Iocono. Indeed, the Kentucky Department of Education has requested more programs that inform public school kids on the opportunities for health careers. It is too early to plan the next semester, but they are looking at 1 or 2 live surgery programs along with one or two “meet the doctor” or “meet the healthcare professional” programs so that students have an opportunity to gain greater insight into what careers are available and what might interest them.