Creighton med students lead way to host surgical skills lab

Creighton med students lead way to host surgical skills lab

L to R: Patrick Isola, Creighton medical student, David Row, MD, Residency Program Director, and Charlotte Spear, Creighton medical student
L to R: Patrick Isola, Creighton medical student, David Row, MD, Residency Program Director, and Charlotte Spear, Creighton medical student

Thanks to the leadership of two students from Creighton University School of Medicine, students from six medical schools across Arizona will participate in a unique, hands-on integrated skills lab on surgical stapling Feb. 2 at Barrow Neurological Institute’s Neurosurgery Research Laboratory at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center.

Charlotte Spear and Patrick Isola, both of whom are currently completing their final clinical year at Creighton University School of Medicine’s Phoenix Regional Campus, successfully spearheaded the effort to secure an educational grant of $153,190 from Ethicon, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson. The grant will be used to host the skills lab, which is tailored specifically for medical students.  

“Surgical skills labs are traditionally industry-sponsored events focused on teaching faculty and residents how to best utilize medical devices,” said Spear, who is pursuing a thoracic surgery specialization. “They provide trainees with a unique hands-on training experience that could be valuable to medical students too.”

Isola, who is planning to complete a designated preliminary year in surgery prior to moving on to advanced training in anesthesiology, echoed the sentiment. “This hasn’t been done before at the medical student level; we had a vision to bring surgical skills labs to the medical students of Arizona.”

Both students are members of the Medical Student Committee of the Arizona Chapter of the American College of Surgeons, which is the event’s official sponsoring institution. Under Spear’s leadership, the group was formed last winter. One of its primary goals is to create training opportunities for members.

Creighton University School of Medicine-Phoenix Regional Campus surgery faculty and residents will actively participate in the skills lab, providing formal didactics and overseeing three separate skill stations. Students will receive training in ergonomics, function and theory/mechanics of surgical staplers. The stations will touch on the technical considerations of using various types of staplers on different tissue types.

Throughout the process, David Row, MD, FACS, FASCRS, assistant professor of surgery and program director of Creighton University School of Medicine/St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center General Surgery Residency, served as the students’ mentor as they sought financial support and hammered out the details and logistics for the event.

Medical students need more of these opportunities, he said.

“It is no surprise that there is evidence within the medical literature that early exposure to surgical skills labs has a positive influence on students toward choosing a career path in surgery,” Row said. “In light of the projected shortage of surgeons in the coming years, this is especially relevant.”

Both students credited Row with helping them navigate the grant process, which led to them garnering the support needed to put on the event.

“He helped us to not only refine our vision and goals but he challenged us to make them a reality,” Isola said.

Added Spear, “We really could not have done this without him.” 

Row said the students “saw a clear need and stepped up to do something.”

“They took ownership of the project from the start and have done so every step of the way. It’s a reflection of their innovative spirit, drive and tenacity.”

Spear hopes it is the first of many future integrated skills labs for students.

“This kicks off a collaborative effort to have students who are members of the surgery interest groups from each of the statewide medical schools put on and host a skills lab,” she said. 

Because of the extraordinary efforts of Spear and Isola, that effort is taking a major first step.