Future physicians: Truckee students perform knee replacement surgery
TRUCKEE, Calif. — More than a dozen individuals in blue scrubs crowd around an operating table to perform a knee replacement surgery on a man.
They weren’t doctors and nurses, or even medical students, but rather, Truckee High School students in Paul Smith’s AP biology and human body systems classes.
“I told the kids, ‘What other kids in the United States have had an opportunity to literally do a knee surgery on a person? None,’” Smith said earlier this week after the surgery. “They’re probably the only ones in the entire United States who’ve had an opportunity to do this. It’s phenomenal.”
Facilitated by Steve Yale, president of Reno-based Summit Medical Services, Inc., 14 students participated in the May 29 surgery on a cadaver at University of Nevada, Reno’s School of Medicine Human Anatomy Lab.
“I just think it was really, really nice of them to go out of their way to allow us to go in there and get a taste of what it’s like to be in an operating room environment, get to look at all the anatomy of the knee and get to actually participate in it because it’s so much better when it’s hands on,” said Madison Haley, an 11th -grader in Smith’s AP biology class. “You’re right there doing it. I just thought it was absolutely incredible.”
Dr. Eric Boyden, a physician with Reno Orthopaedic Clinic since 1993 who focuses on adult reconstruction and joint replacement, led the surgery and guided students through the procedure step-by-step.
“I didn’t think they were actually physically going to do the surgery, but they did,” Smith said. “The only thing the doctor did was teach them how to do it and some of the incision, but for the most part, they did it all. He encouraged them all to participate, and they did.”
Some tasks the students preformed included stabilizing the knee, keeping the original incision open, and making cuts at the top of the tibia and bottom of the femur.
“Once we got the incision open, seeing all the little pieces and seeing how much care goes into performing a surgery and how much it depends on precision, getting those cuts precise, it’s breathtaking,” said Haley, one of the students who helped stabilize the knee.
Getting that kind of hands-on experience is invaluable and ties into Truckee High’s “Project Lead the Way” program, which offers classes in biomedical and engineering, Smith said.
“It makes it real,” he said. “Project Lead the Way courses are meant to be hands on. They’re meant to give the kids intimate knowledge of the subject matter. You can’t get anymore intimate than doing the dissection yourself and seeing the outcome.”
After the surgery — which took roughly an hour and a half — Dr. Boyden manipulated the knee to show the students what they accomplished.
“If this was a real person, they would have made it possible for somebody to walk who was having difficulty walking, so they would have helped someone,” Smith said.
When asked what he hopes the students take away from the experience, Smith said: “A passion for science, a passion for the medical careers, to open up new avenues for them, possibilities for them.”
Prior to the surgery Haley had an interest in pursuing a medical career, an ambition that has only strengthened, she said.
“It definitely opened my eyes up to see what it’s really like to be in that setting, and I definitely kind of fallen even more deeply in love with it,” she said. “It has definitely strengthened my desire to push down the medical field. It was an amazing experience.”
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