Students laughed as they threaded needles through orange skins and snapped photos of one another posing with their “sutured” fruits. The mood on the other side of the room was much more serious as other students concentrated on making holes through model skulls with manual hand drills.
The workshops, intended to simulate techniques used in brain and spine surgery, were set up by Alan Boulos, MD, chief of the division of neurosurgery, and a team of neurosurgical residents for a presentation to nearly 100 Bethlehem High School students involved in Lab School—a rigorous program that focuses on real-world learning.
Boulos discussed the history of neurosurgery, the anatomy of the brain and nervous system, and advances in neurosurgery—complete with video of actual surgeries.
Senior Delenn Lloyd-Latif leaned over her desk to get a better view of video of the surgical removal of a pituitary tumor. “That is so cool!” she exclaimed as the tumor was pulled through the patient’s nasal cavity.
Students also were shown images of minimally invasive techniques to treat aneurysms and strokes—such as threading a catheter-like device through the femoral artery to remove a blood clot.
To help his audience relate, Boulos compared the procedure to a video game. “You’re in total control of what’s happening, but you have to watch what’s happening inside the body on a monitor,” he explained.
While the comparison to video games helped students to relate, the difficult subject matter clearly was not lost on these students, who posed complex questions such as: “how do you prevent damage to the myelin sheath when you perform brain surgery?” and “how is deep brain stimulation used to treat depression?”
Students also wanted to know about the requirements for medical school and residency training, which Boulos explained, usually takes seven years after medical school. “But in that time, you become like family,” he said, evident in his final slide—a smiling group photo with his residents.