Monday, August 5, 2013

Medical Camp Takes Hands-On Learning to Whole New Level



Mark Phillips pats his arms dry after disinfecting his hands, before gowning up for surgery.


Jacob Schwind concentrates on his dissection.

Surgeon Dr. Kip Dorsey instructs students as they examine the organs in the abdominal cavity.

Xing Zhang and Jennifer Knoebel compare what they are seeing in the subject’s chest cavity to anatomy information sheets.


Fauquier Health’s medical camps often have been touted for offering hands-on lessons for students to learn about opportunities in the medical field. It doesn’t get any more hands on than it did Wednesday, as 14 Level III students were given the chance to scrub up and perform surgery. With guidance from Fauquier Health physicians and technicians, campers from 14 to 17 years old dissected a human cadaver. 

Surgeon Dr. Kip Dorsey said, “Normally, students don’t have the privilege of working on a human body until medical school. This is an amazing opportunity for them. I would have loved to do this when I was their age.”

The students received instruction in how to scrub up from Tom Cobert, certified first assist, then donned surgical gowns before being introduced to their subject for the day. He was 90 years old when he passed away, and had dementia, the students were told. They learned more about him as they worked. Cutting open the chest cavity revealed that he was a smoker, and an examination of one knee found that he had been a candidate for a total knee replacement.

Dr. Dorsey and Cobert were kept busy pointing out muscles and organs and offering instruction on making incisions – and answering lots questions from the inquiring minds. “Is that the liver?” “What does the diaphragm do?” “What is this yellow stuff?” “How do I remove the lung?” “Is this the pancreas?” “Is the small intestine just one long muscle?”

While most of the campers gathered around the operating table, Dr. Anhtai Nguyen, chief medical officer with Fauquier Health, worked with some students on suturing. Level I and II camps cover suturing, but these Level III campers were able to try suturing on real human lung tissue. “It’s soft and spongy,” several campers noticed, and reasoned that was because the lung needs to expand and contract with the flow of air.

Although the embalming fluid gave off a strong smell that sometimes irritated their eyes and noses, students worked on their anatomy lesson for nearly three hours. A few took short breaks to get some fresh air, but returned as quickly as they could. Ann Mohrmann, who came to camp from Orange County, said, “It was the coolest thing to dissect an actual human heart.” Ann is applying to the nursing program at Longwood University, and hoping that this experience will help set her apart from other applicants.

Devlin Brinson was just as enthusiastic. “I’ve wanted to be a doctor ever since I was a little boy.” A senior at Liberty High School and a JROTC cadet, Devlin plans to join the Army as a medic. Eventually, he would like to be a pediatrician. “This has been great,” he said, “I’ve learned a lot about anatomy today.”

Ananya Seth is also getting an early start on her medical career. She has started a medical club at Patriot High School, where she is a junior. She founded the club in December of 2012, and already has 50 students involved.

Mark Phillips, who attends Kettle Run High School, wants to be a surgeon or a gastroenterologist. He said that as someone who suffers from some serious medical issues himself, “I know what people are going through, and I want to help.”

Dr. Dorsey was surprised that the students were so comfortable with the project. “They did a lot better than I expected, and were not intimidated at all. They were very engaged, asking great questions and showing how much they already knew about anatomy.”

Julie Fainter, Strategic Services manager, said that she had been trying to arrange for the mobile surgical unit to visit Fauquier Hospital since the beginning of the year. “I happened to come across the Surgical Training Institute on the Internet and asked them if they would be willing to come to our Level III camp. They travel around the country with their tractor trailer that is basically a traveling operating room. It is used most often to train clinical staff on new orthopedic devices. They do about 120 events a year, and this is the first time it’s ever been used to train students.”

The VIPeds program at Fauquier Hospital offers Level I, II and III camps to students each year, for a cost of only $50. That fee doesn’t begin to cover the cost of the camps. The students receive two days of hands-on instruction in different areas of the hospital, their own set of VIPeds scrubs and lunch for the two days of camp. The remainder has to be covered by donations and a grant from the Virginia Healthcare and Hospital Association.

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