Spring 2015
Converted laboratory helps train local physicians

synapse: University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine

Physicans in the advanced surgical training lab

Honing skills

Local physicians use donated cadavers in the advanced surgical training lab to hone their skills on new technologies and procedures. Photo by Joseph Reeder.

Story by David O. Perez

The School of Medicine welcomed a new facility, the advanced surgical training lab forged from the old David Melarkey Anatomy Lab on the Reno campus. With generous help from the William N. Pennington Foundation, the new lab allows local surgeons to practice new procedures and technology on donated cadavers. The Melarkey lab in the Manville Building closed in 2010 and opened as a training lab in November 2013.

Carl Sievert, Ph.D., professor of physiology and cell biology and head anatomy instructor at the medical school, spearheaded the conversion of the surgical training lab.

The lab is designed to hold three surgical stations, but can easily expand to six. In addition to standard operating room equipment like tables, lights vacuum and irrigation, it is also equipped with frequently-used equipment like laparoscopic towers and fluoroscopy C-arms.

Equipment needed for a procedure that is not provided by the medical school can usually be supplied from local medical facilities such as Renown Health and St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center. Relationships with local hospitals that provide this equipment allow local surgeons exposure to the newest surgical technology and techniques with the ultimate goal of helping their patients.

“I have been extremely impressed with the quality of the lab. During my surgical training sessions, we had access to surgical assistants as well as radiographic fluoroscopy, just as we have in the actual operating room,” explained Mike Kalisvaart, M.D., a local orthopedic surgeon.

Surgical training labs are located all over the country with some operated by medical schools and others run by for-profit corporations. The closest such training lab is at the University of California, Davis.

Being located in northern Nevada, the lab allows for doctors to come in on their own time to practice procedures.

“Doctors are really busy and don’t want to travel for one procedure,” explained Sievert. “This lab allows doctors to obtain the training they want which otherwise may not have been received due to lack of time.”

Elizabeth Hutson, M.D., agrees with Sievert.

“Having this in Reno is so convenient and allows me to participate in educational and teaching opportunities that I would otherwise not be able to have due to the need to travel and time away from work and home,” said the obstetrician-gynecologist.

The lab has been well received in the local medical community.

“The location of the lab, right on the School of Medicine campus, is outstanding. It places us in the midst of a thriving educational institution, and it is highly convenient with easy access to the major hospitals,” said bariatric surgeon Kent Sasse, M.D., MPH.

Sievert allows a number of medical students to participate in the training labs creating an atmosphere where professionals, students and administrators can train to provide the best health care to the community.

The cadavers used in the training lab are from the anatomical donation program, which allows people to donate their bodies to medical teaching and scientific research. It is a statewide program that accepts donations from Nevada and areas of northern California.

“We keep northern Nevada donor remains at the medical school for education and research. Donors from southern Nevada are distributed to southern Nevada System of Higher Education institutions,” explained Joyce King, anatomical donation program administrator.