Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017 | 2:30 p.m.
Residents at the UNLV School of Medicine are performing scores of delicate surgeries and racking up hours of realistic operating room experience, all without the fear of making a mistake or even a single incision on a live patient.
Utilizing the cutting-edge VirtaMed ArthoS simulator, residents can perform a variety of virtual orthopedic surgeries, including knee, shoulder and hip procedures.
Dr. Michael Daubs, professor and chair of UNLV’s Department of Orthopedic Surgery, said that when he was in training, residents might only get limited experience practicing surgical procedures on a cadaver before operating on a real patient.
“This is a tremendous advance in education for orthopedic surgery,” he said.
What sets the VirtaMed ArthoS apart from other simulators is how close it comes to replicating the structures of the human body. The pressures residents feel when they encounter tendons, cartilage or bone are nearly identical to those they would discern if operating on a live patient.
“You get the same sensation, and these are all the tools we use in the operating room. So, everything is exactly the same,” Daubs said.
Each time residents conduct a virtual surgery, their performance is recorded, timed and graded, allowing them to track their progress.
Daubs came to UNLV from UCLA four years ago to start the orthopedic residency program and said the school is already attracting top-level talent.
Second-year resident Tyler Kent, who came from Georgetown University to fulfill his residency at UNLV, said he’s impressed with the program.
“The biggest draw for me was it is a new program, because there are opportunities afforded that you can’t get elsewhere,” Kent said. “Knowing that I was going to get one-on-one instruction from attending physicians that first year, you can’t beat that.”
Kent said he has spent about five hours working on the surgery simulator since May. “It’s an opportunity that’s second to none,” he said.
With the residents approaching the end of their training, the hope is they will stick around the valley once they complete their residences.
“It’s the other part of having the UNLV School of Medicine,” Daubs said. “That’s the whole goal.”