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KU neurosurgery residents hone skills in a cutting-edge educational mobile lab

April 23, 2019

By Leilana McKindra

To complement current educational and lab experiences, the KU Department of Neurology brought a state-of-the-art mobile lab to campus.

If practice makes perfect, a state-of-the-art lab on wheels helped neurosurgery residents at the University of Kansas Medical Center move closer to that high standard.

Residents participated in a unique mobile dissection lab inside a hard-to-miss full-length semi-tractor trailer parked at the base of the bluff near 36th and Rainbow March 2-3.

Outfitted with eight built-in surgical stations, along with equipment and instrumentation such as endoscopic cameras and monitors, high speed drills, shavers, ultrasonic aspirators, operating lights and communications software, the trailer's 1,200 square feet of available lab space accommodates up to 40 people.

During the dissection lab, the 14 neurosurgery residents practiced a variety of advanced approaches to complex brain surgeries, using cadaver skulls.

The lab exercise allows residents to apply surgical techniques and test the threshold of what equipment can do in a safe environment, explained Jeremy Peterson, M.D., co-chief resident of neurosurgery at KU, who participated in the dissection lab hosted inside the trailer for the third time and has attended several other similar courses throughout the country.

It also helps residents solidify what they see while working with attending physicians during live surgeries, which is especially important in more minimally invasive techniques that require conceptual knowledge that's hard to gain except by performing the tasks necessary to completing the surgery.

"This type of active learning, at least for myself, is the way I learn best," Peterson said. "It provides an in-depth experience of the anatomy to help solidify what you read in a book or review in the lecture portion of the lab."

To complement current educational and lab experiences, the department brought the mobile lab to campus through generous industry educational support. The lab is in high demand, and residents appreciate the training opportunity as they come away with a better understanding of the advanced techniques covered during the session, as well as a firmer grasp of the importance and nuances of the different surgical steps.

KU Medical Center neurosurgeons Roukoz Chamoun, M.D., and Kushal Shah, M.D., teamed with David Beahm, M.D., an ear, nose and throat surgeon at KU, to lead the training.

"For very advanced surgeries, you like to practice on a cadaver, see the anatomy and familiarize yourself," Chamoun said. "Before we started the lab, residents would be exposed to these surgeries on patients in the operating room. So, they would wait for these cases to watch them. Now they can practice on cadavers. This enhances significantly their education."

The mobile lab has been to the campus three times before, including most recently in 2017. For the first time, though, this year's dissection lab was expanded to two days, giving residents the opportunity to cover more topics and more surgical approaches.

"Learning by watching in the OR is still a very important part of surgical learning, but I do feel like when you add something like this to a program, the quality of training greatly increases for all levels involved, including the faculty running the lab," Peterson said.

A medical technology company operates the educational mobile lab. A separate company provides the cadavers used in each location.

Last modified: May 03, 2019