Cadaver Lab Isn’t Just for First Years

sarto

Credit: Rob Swatski

Of all the things people say they remember learning in medical school, the location and function of the sartorius muscle is usually not one of them. For me, I can still see the muscle lying diagonally across the dissected thigh—small but purposeful, leaving me to wonder how this tiny thing so miraculously and perfectly made it from one side of the leg to the other through evolution and use.

This memory is representative of how thought-provoking and educational cadaveric dissection was for me as a novice clinician. The sight of the
cadaver on the gurney, along with the smells, the noises, and the presence of a real human being in front of me, were my first clinical experiences of bedside learning from a patient, and it had a significant effect on me.

Despite living in the digital age where extraordinary feats in medical technology have occurred over such a short period of time, cadavers remain a fundamental part of medical education. Training and educating students with human cadavers is not just a pedagogical exercise. Cadaveric dissection emphasizes understanding of a structure’s spatial orientation and function, but perhaps more importantly, it provides a contextual environment that differs from rote memorization that often accompanies anatomical learning. Additionally, cadaveric education has gained wider importance at the post-graduate level as a training element for surgical and emergent ultrasound-guided procedures.

Dr. Demetrios Demetriades, Chief of Trauma and Surgical Intensive Care at Los Angeles County Medical Center in Los Angeles, understood the value of this type of training, and in 2006 worked with the County of Los Angeles to create a cadaveric procedural training lab for post-graduate trainees. The lab was designed to be used by residents and fellows for procedural education, practice, and anatomical dissection. There is a dedicated, full-time staff that includes a perfusionist, a technical assistant, and an administrative team through the Department of Surgery. The lab is used 2 to 3 times a day by various surgical specialties, anesthesia, and the emergency medicine residency, which includes our ultrasound division. The emergency ultrasound division uses the lab once a month to train residents and ultrasound fellows how to perform various point-of-care ultrasound-guided procedures, such as ultrasound-guided central and peripheral line placement.

Unlike other simulation modalities such as gel phantoms, human tissue phantoms, or simulators, performing ultrasound-guided procedures in the cadaver lab allows the trainee to have the tactile experience, where (s)he is touching skin, performing the procedure, and using real procedural tools on human tissue. The importance of this from a training and educational standpoint is that the trainee is in a controlled setting, has time to reflect upon the learning as it occurs, can discuss procedural technique openly with the attending, and can perform the procedure repeatedly in a safe environment.

For emergency medicine providers, the impact of using the procedural cadaver lab for ultrasound-guided procedures and anatomical learning cannot be underestimated. John James (2013) estimated that more than 400,000 deaths occurred in a 3-year span due to medical errors in the hospital setting, making it the third leading cause of death in the U.S. The conditions by which we practice our specialty are always under the auspices of being emergent. Although it has been well documented that ultrasound makes care safer and more efficient, ultrasound as a modality warrants the same practice and repetition as the procedures it provides assistance to. The cadaver lab provides this exposure to openly learn in an inaugural fashion and by one’s mistakes. It seems fitting, then, to make the cadaver lab a more central part of medical education—a place we can come back to on a regular basis as we learn and improve our skill.  Just think of the memories we’ll make.

What learning experience had the most impact on you? What other experiences should we ensure continue? Have a cadaver lab story to share? Comment below or let us know on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound.

Tarina Lee Kang, MD, is Assistant Professor of Clinical Emergency Medicine and Division Chief of Emergency Medicine Ultrasound at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

I’m Tired of Falling Asleep During Lectures

I remember the first test I failed. It was an immunology exam that I took about halfway through my first year of medical school. Seeking some solace, I asked a classmate for advice. His snarky response was, “Why don’t you try NOT sleeping through the class?”

sleeping in classHe did have a point, but I couldn’t help it. The professor was so incredibly boring. I couldn’t understand why he would spend so long talking about a study performed decades ago involving injecting mice with bacteria. How would this make me a good doctor?

I quickly found the solution to my problem: I had to stop going to class. Imagine that? The best way for me to get a medical education was NOT attending the courses–at least this particular course. It turns out I learned a lot better reading by the pool in sunny Southern California than in that big lecture hall. I soon discovered that many of my classmates were doing the same thing. Some read the textbooks at home or at a coffee shop. Some bought entirely different textbooks on the same subject. Some bought audio tapes for a particular subject. Of course some did prefer the classroom. In the end, we all passed.

Spending 4 years in college and 4 more in medical school makes you extremely sensitive to the lecturer’s delivery of the material. We spend years sitting in large groups in dark rooms quietly listening to someone on some stage talking at us. These days, most lecturers are reading off slides and within the first minute, you know what you’ve got yourself into.

Why do we subject our learners to someone standing behind a podium reading slides for an hour? Why do we think this works? Most likely it’s because very few people know there is a better way of doing things.

Our ultrasound instructor in medical school, Dr Chris Fox, likes to talk about “flipping the classroom.” Prior to our ultrasound didactics, he would give us access to an online podcast for the scanning technique of the day. We could watch it in pieces or all at once and we could watch it at any time and however many times we wanted. Best of all, we could pause, rewind and fast forward. We would then show up for a brief lecture consisting of a 5- to 10-minute review of the podcast where we could ask questions. Then we split up into groups to practice scanning.

That’s what I call efficient. And fun.

I’m now in charge of teaching my co-residents the same ultrasound skills I learned in medical school. Problem is, I don’t have a podcast series of lectures. In fact, I started with no lectures at all. Truth is, I could have devoted hours creating engaging, interesting, and effective PowerPoint slides. But, why should I reinvent the wheel when colleagues of mine from around the world have already developed these presentations? If I could use those, then I could focus on what I do best, which is teach the hands-on components.

Thank goodness for FOAM (Free Online Access Meducation). The term was coined in 2012 in the emergency medicine community and Life in the Fastlane has a whole page dedicated to its history and explanation.

Essentially, FOAM is a growing movement to provide high-quality and FREE medical education materials online for anyone to use. It’s a dream come true for any educator. Time to give a lecture? You could spend hours throwing together 60 slides for a lecture, but somebody else has already done it, and they’re REALLY good at it. Let them teach the lecture so you can use your time to practice and reinforce. Whether it’s an ultrasound technique or reviewing how to work up and treat chest pain, the principle is the same.

For me, using FOAM to teach residents is a lifesaver. Walking a learner through the machine and the exam technique comes natural to those with experience. Putting together a presentation to introduce it all to a big group requires time that I don’t always have. Plus, my proficiency in PowerPoint is limited and producing high-quality videos and images with overlaid anatomy takes considerable time, assuming you know how to do it.

Many of us know about FOAM resources already, probably just not the name. The Ultrasound Podcast is a fantastic resource with educational videos and challenges. There is also a smartphone app called One Minute Ultrasound for Apple and Android phones, which is a great on-the-go resource. The American Academy of Emergency Medicine (ACEP) runs Sonoguide.com with a whole host of resources. Another great resource is Sonomojo.org, which is a collection of FOAM resources for ultrasound. AIUM offers free resources and practice guidelines as well as teaching tools for members.

So let’s stop putting our students to sleep and start engaging them on their own terms. Give them the resources then use your time more effectively to get practical and work on procedural skills or problem solving. FOAM is there to guide the way.

How do you make your presentations engaging? Do you use any FOAM resources with teaching? If so, have you found it useful? Have questions about the future of FOAM? Comment below or let us know on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound.

David Flick is a 3rd year family medicine resident at Tripler Army Medical Center. He received 4 years of ultrasound training at the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine. He currently runs the resident ultrasound curriculum and is an outspoken proponent for ultrasound training in the primary care specialties.

 

An Idea Whose Time Has Come

By all accounts, French writer Victor Hugo wasn’t talking about ultrasound in medical education when he wrote these words. But fast forward a little more than two centuries and they seem more than fitting.

Med_Ed_Forum_Logo-blueRecent years have seen a reformation of medical school education, something many have argued is long overdue given the changes in medicine and medical practice in the last two decades. Multiple medical schools are actively changing their curricula and many are incorporating novel educational strategies to teach medical students more efficiently and to focus on less esoteric topics. In perhaps a perfect storm during this same period the accuracy of the physical examination is being questioned more than ever while over reliance on imaging and increased radiation exposure are being linked to increased costs and future mortality. Ultrasound has long been proposed by advocates as a critical tool to help address these concerns but in medical education especially, it may be an ideal tool for future physicians.

Ultrasound as taught in a point-of-care setting, or performed at the bedside, can be incorporated into almost every clinical specialty. Its uses range from procedure guidance to focused diagnostic applications allowing accurate bedside diagnosis of multiple disease states. In addition, it is proving to be an excellent adjunct in teaching basic science topics such as anatomy and physiology. Recent literature, representing just the proverbial tip of the iceberg, suggests that ultrasound is superior to the physical examination even if that exam is done by an expert. Additionally, ultrasound helps novices, known as medical students, better learn the basics needed for all medical professions. Given all of this information it is imperative to have a national conversation regarding ultrasound integration into medical school education.

It is with this backdrop that last year, the AIUM and the Society of Ultrasound in Medical Education (SUSME) convened a conference to discuss the state of ultrasound in medical education and to ultimately craft a roadmap for its integration. Forty-two medical schools, 64 attendees, and 13 faculty gathered in New York City to begin this work.

At the outset, it was clear that the level of integration varied among medical schools, with some being fully integrated, some just starting, and others still exploring. But this fact led credence to the need for this event which started with a series of discussions and presentations covering a variety of topics. Ultrasound education leaders discussed how to get started, how to overcome pitfalls and barriers, and where to find support and funding. Many corresponding resources can be found on the AIUM’s MedEd Portal.

Participants then had a hands-on scanning experience with simulation and live models that was designed to show how and where they could integrate medical ultrasound education. This was followed by roundtable discussions during which participants could share their experiences, ask questions, and focus on next steps.

One of the highlights of the event was the students’ perspective. A number of students shared how medical ultrasound education helped them develop confidence and a skill that could be used for them to teach attendings, other students and practitioners across the world.  Their enthusiasm and energy definitely created a positive and exciting atmosphere.

The participants came away with a shared understanding that it makes sense to prepare the next generation of clinicians and physicians with the skills and understanding of how and when to use medical ultrasound. However, challenges remain.

Multiple barriers exist and many Deans, associate Deans and other tasked with curricula development are not familiar with current point of care ultrasound use.  Additional barriers such as when, where and how to integrate ultrasound into a 4-year curriculum may appear to be unsurmountable, yet have been solved in multiple medical schools already. The collection and efficient distribution of this knowledge is seen as critical to the further spread of ultrasound in medical education and the unprecedented bringing together of multiple basic science and clinical educators.

This event was the first step in opening up the discussion and sharing common resources, challenges and solutions. The second Ultrasound in Medical Education Forum is scheduled to take place May 31-June 1 at the University of California, Irvine. The event is by invitation, but if you know someone who might be interested, please forward their contact information to Glynis Harvey at gharvey@aium.org.

If you are associated with a medical school, how have you integrated ultrasound? If you are a student, what do you think about teaching ultrasound in your classes? Comment below or let us know on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound.

Steven R. Goldstein, MD, is AIUM’s Immediate Past President.

* The 2014 event was underwritten by industry partners and a grant from the Endowment for Education and Research.