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More experience, more confidence: Department opens state-of-the-art microsurgery training lab for residents

Resident education in the Department of Ophthalmology made a huge leap forward in March with the opening of a new microsurgery practice lab.

Ophthalmology residents practice their techniques in the department's new microsurgery lab. Microsurgery is performed with an operating microscope, an essential tool for eye surgery.

The lab is now equipped with four stations, each outfitted with an operating microscope that is wired to its own video monitor. Each resident also receives a set of microsurgical instruments to use at practice sessions throughout his or her training.

There are four ophthalmology residents in each of the three years of the department’s residency program.With the new lab’s multiple microsurgery stations, residents get significantly more hands-on training than they did in the past, when all four residents shared one microscope and one set of surgical instruments. In addition, this gives residents more chances to practice their technique on animal or “practice” eye tissue before ever performing surgery on a living patient’s eye.

Martha Wright, M.D., professor and director of the ophthalmology residency program, says the extra practice time will build trainees’ confidence.

“Having access to their own microsurgery stations will make it possible for residents to practice longer, and their surgical skills will advance more quickly,” says Wright, who holds the Haven Glaucoma Professorship. “This additional practice makes everyone confident that patient safety is at the forefront.”

Video monitors in the lab allow the supervising professor to move from station to station, observe each resident’s technique, and offer tips and suggestions. The lab also includes a phacoemulsification machine, which is used to remove cataracts.

The funding for this lab came primarily from resident alumna Nancy Slater, M.D., who has supported resident education and continuing education for practicing ophthalmologists for several years. Slater’s support has enabled the department to construct and equip this lab.

Dozens of other alumni and friends of the department made donations in memory of former resident David Pond, M.D., who died in 2006, to supply microsurgical instruments for current residents.

The microsurgery practice lab’s opening coincides with the start of a greatly expanded microsurgery course offered to first- and second year residents to help develop their surgical skills. In the course, they’ll practice on animal eyes and human donor eyes not suitable for transplant.

“The course exposes residents to suturing and sewing tissue and performing certain steps required in cataract surgery and other types of surgeries,” explains professor and director of cornea and refractive surgery Stephen Kaufman, M.D., Ph.D., who also holds the Elias Potter Lyon Research Chair in Ophthalmology. He is the primary instructor for the laboratory course but will rely on several other faculty members for assistance.

This new course and the enhanced microsurgery practice lab will help residents become skilled surgeons and advance in their careers more quickly,Wright says.

“Practice in the lab will increase their efficiency and speed, and residents who are efficient in their actions tend to get to do more,” she says. “We stress accuracy and precision over speed, but the more skill residents are able to show, the more they will be allowed to do during a case. The greater the experience in training, the more confident the resident will feel entering practice.”

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