Physician trainees test drive the Stanford Virtual Heart

Stanford Virtual Heart

Check out SF-based Seeker’s video story on the Stanford Virtual Heart, posted June 15 (Video contains footage of open heart surgery that may be disturbing to some viewers)

During the last weekend in April, 40 future pediatric cardiology specialists from across the country came to Stanford for a one-of-a-kind experience that immersed them into what they will experience in their fellowships — the training period to become pediatric cardiology specialists.

This was the third year that Stanford University School of Medicine professors hosted the Pediatric Cardiology Fellows Boot Camp at Stanford. The weekend-long, all-expense-paid intensive workshop was packed to the brim with group training and simulations, which the trainees had not yet explored deeply outside their academic studies.

Scott Ceresnak, MD, assistant professor of pediatric cardiology at the Stanford School of Medicine, who developed the boot camp, said it allows the fellows to “hit the ground running” and eases their transition from residency to fellowship. Once they begin their fellowships this summer at 23 different pediatric cardiology programs around the country, it’s akin to “getting thrown into the fire,” said Ceresnak. “While they are used to working with patients in their residencies, learning a specialty like pediatric cardiology is a whole new level of experience.” The curriculum was dynamic and intense, from dissecting animal hearts, to programming pacemakers, participating in hands-on ventricular assist device training and taking a primer session on cardiac surgery. It was exhausting, but as one trainee described it, “this was one of the best weekends of my life, other than my wedding.”

Pediatric Cardiology Fellows Boot Camp

This is the only program in the country offering such an opportunity prior to the start of fellowship training. Several of the participants will be doing their fellowships at the world-renowned Betty Irene Moore Children’s Heart Center at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford.

This year brought a new educational tool into the program: a first-of-its-kind virtual reality program­ —  The Stanford Virtual Heart — which uses VR to depict the complex anatomy of congenital heart defects in a way that can be taught to medical trainees as well as to patients and their families. Trainees at the boot camp were among the first to experience this method of learning about congenital heart defects and how they behave inside a beating heart.  While standard education includes learning from 2-D paper and digital renderings or with 3-D imaging models, trainees used the Stanford Virtual Heart to virtually explore the outer surface of the heart and travel inside the heart to learn how defects affect blood flow and how they are surgically repaired.

“Their reactions were incredible,” said David Axelrod, MD, clinical assistant professor of cardiology, who helped to lead the boot camp and developed the Virtual Heart in collaboration with Lighthaus Inc. and with support from Oculus VR. “We designed the Virtual Heart with this audience in mind, and it’s so gratifying to see their real-time enthusiasm for a new understanding of congenital heart disease”

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