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Out of the O.R. and into virtual reality

ACS accredits OHSU surgical simulation – one of 40 in nation

In 2006, the OHSU surgical simulation program squeezed itself, elbow-to-elbow, into a small, cramped space and had only basic old-school equipment. Today, just three years later, it's housed in a DSC04290remodeled 1,200-square foot space in the Old Library with state-of-the-art, high fidelity "virtual reality" simulators that allow residents to practice colonoscopies, bronchoscopies and many other surgical procedures on adult and pediatric models.   

"Simulation is a key part of surgical education and today's amazing technology helps move beyond the historical paradigm of learning by random opportunity," said  Donn Spight, MD, Assistant Professor, Department of Surgery, and Medical Director of VirtuOHSU. "It moves surgical education outside of the O.R."   

VirtuOHSU recently earned accreditation from the American College of Surgeons, one of only 40 such programs to receive this national recognition. With 89 residents, the OHSU surgical residency program is the second largest in the country.   

John Hunter, MD, Professor and Chair, Department of Surgery, is leading an effort to coordinate and expand simulation programs across the institution for both students and practicing health care professionals. Dr. Hunter is chairing the newly charged OHSU Simulation Governance Board – composed of OHSU faculty from the Schools of Medicine, Nursing and Dentistry, the OHSU Hospital and community members from Intel, among others. Securing philanthropic support for a comprehensive simulation center is part of the OHSU Foundation's $100 million Faculty Fundraising Initiative.  

The residency experience of Dr. Spight, who specializes in minimally invasive surgery, shows the enormous educational potential of increasingly sophisticated simulation technology. "I trained in the classic environment — the attending and the chief resident would be doing a laparoscopic operation," he remembered, "and the attending might think of me and say, 'Hey, call Donn to the OR,' and upon my arrival he would say 'We're going to teach you to sew — right now.' Your heart starts pounding and your sphincter tone gets high, everyone's watching, and the attending says, 'Step up!"

Read an article about the VirtuOHSU in the 2009 Bridges Magazine here.

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