March 2, 2018
Another milestone in the history of science education at Saint Vincent College took place on Feb. 27 when a surgeon performed the first cadaver operation in the Liberatore Human Anatomy Laboratory in the new James F. Will Engineering and Biomedical Sciences Hall.
Carl T. Hasselman, M.D., a clinical professor and orthopedic surgeon at UPMC-St. Margaret who specializes in foot and ankle surgery, performed a first metatarsophalangeal arthroplasty (big toe joint replacement), a procedure frequently used to treat Hallux Rigidus (arthritis of the big toe joint) on a cadaver foot, the first such segment obtained by the Herbert W. Boyer School of Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Computing.
“It’s an operation that is similar to a knee replacement but on a smaller scale,” Hasselman explained. The procedure, which took about 30 minutes to complete on the cadaver, would take nearly an hour if performed on a live patient. “It’s a very common operation across the country with a very high success rate,” he commented. “The replacement joint we used, which is made of cobalt, chrome, titanium and a special type of plastic by the Arthrosurface Company, will last for 20 to 25 years.”
Hasselman said that the purpose of the demonstration was to get students in a range of majors excited about all of the aspects of the replacement joint procedure. “The surgery is the medical part but the operation is made possible by the cooperative efforts of many talented specialists including metallurgists, designers, engineers and others,” he noted.
Students who are in Saint Vincent College’s pre-med or related programs and plan to be surgeons need to do more than work hard on their academic studies. “In addition to classroom-based study, this type of career requires an interest in carpentry and mechanical skills as well as anatomy,” Hasselman said. “We use drills, plates, screws and other tools that are very similar to what a carpenter would use.”
Hasselman told the students that orthopedic surgery is an exciting area of medicine that is constantly changing and moving forward with new technology being developed. “Performing this type of surgery is a challenge that gives great satisfaction to both the surgeon and to the patient who is frequently made pain-free and able to walk and run normally,” he added.
Hasselman said that the unique educational opportunities being provided by the Liberatore Human Anatomy Laboratory are impressive. “What Saint Vincent is doing is a huge step forward in preparing undergraduates for medical school. This lab motivates students to see what is so important. It is a phenomenal facility, a state-of-the-art lab where no expense was spared to create a first-rate teaching facility. It easily compares with anything I have seen in terms of quality and the latest equipment. We will be assisting in designing a curriculum which will bring in additional surgeons to work with students. Saint Vincent engineering students also have a unique opportunity to learn more about the medical engineering field and its growth potential.”
Prior to the surgery, Hasselman made a 30-minute PowerPoint presentation about the complicated structures of the foot which is composed of hundreds of different bones, muscles, nerves, tendons, cartilage, veins and arteries. He also talked about the operation and the different kinds of replacement joints available before moving to the laboratory to perform the surgery. Ten students were selected to observe the surgery in the laboratory and another larger group was able to watch the operation on a large screen monitor in the classroom.
Krystal Scott and Zack McMonagle, sales representatives from Stryker Corporation, the company that manufactures the replacement joint Hasselman uses, assisted him with the demonstration.
Ralph Liberatore, a member of the Saint Vincent College Board of Directors, and his son, Craig, who is now president of Latrobe-based Three Rivers Orthopedic and Spine, Inc., also observed the demonstration. “I am really excited because this is what I dreamed about,” Ralph Liberatore commented. “We spend a lot of time providing training for surgeons in using replacement joints. Now, they can get first-hand knowledge right here at Saint Vincent and students can observe and learn from them in the same laboratory. It’s really a great opportunity, exactly what I envisioned. When the Sis and Herman Dupré Science Pavilion opened a few years ago, I dreamed of adding something medical. Since surgery is now so much less invasive, with computer assistance we can do demonstrations and training right here in this lab.”
Among those who observed the first historic operation were Elizabeth Volna, a senior biochemistry major from Meadville who is planning to study nursing, and Elizabeth Daniels, a junior majoring in integrated science from Greensburg who is planning to study pathology. They are both student laboratory work/study assistants. Other students included Kathryn Straatmann, Teresa Yanicko, Alexis Mosier, Abbey Manning, Rachel Harenchar, Nicholas Borkowski, Thomas Syphan and Mary Michaels. Roger Herrman of Arthrosurface Corporation and Kevin Yingling of Stryker Corporation also observed.
Fr. Paul R. Taylor, O.S.B., executive vice president at Saint Vincent College, was the host for the evening. Sharing a common birthplace in St. Marys, Pennsylvania, and a common alma mater at Duke University, Fr. Paul invited his lifelong friend, Carl Hasselman, M.D., to speak to the college’s science students and perform the inaugural operation. Hasselman’s daughter, Maeve, is a senior at Saint Vincent majoring in early childhood education. Dr. Stephen M. Jodis, dean of the Boyer School, and Krista Jobe, human anatomy laboratory manager, coordinated arrangements for the event.
The $5.8 million James F. Will Engineering and Biomedical Sciences Hall, part of the $45 million Sis and Herman Dupré Science Pavilion, opened in the fall of 2017 and was dedicated on Nov. 16, 2017. The two-story, 11,260-square foot structure provides state-of-the-art classrooms and laboratories for human anatomy teaching in the biomedical sciences and dedicated space for the college’s growing engineering program. The Liberatore Human Anatomy Laboratory provides cutting-edge, high-tech facilities for anatomical research. The ultramodern laboratory is designed as a flexible space that can accommodate up to six surgical stations in a simulated operating room environment. The lab features advanced audio and video capabilities including a teaching station equipped with cameras and monitors to enhance instruction. Support facilities for the lab include a technologically-equipped conference room, a lab preparation space, a refrigerated storage area and spacious locker and changing rooms. In addition to providing education and research opportunities for the college’s undergraduate programs, the human anatomy laboratory also will provide critical resources to fulfill the contemporary training needs of the health professions and medical device suppliers. Undergraduate students enrolled at Saint Vincent have the opportunity to work as laboratory assistants in the facility.
Photo A: Dr. Hasselman is shown during surgery in the Liberatore Human Anatomy Laboratory at Saint Vincent College.
Photo B: Carl T. Hasselman, center (in white gown), who performed the first surgical demonstration Feb. 27 in the new James F. Will Engineering and Biomedical Sciences Hall’s Liberatore Human Anatomy Laboratory, poses with Saint Vincent students who observed the big toe joint replacement operation.
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