Anesthesia residents work with a mannequin in UCI's new Medical Education Simulation Center - the only one of its kind in Orange County and among the most sophisticated in the nation. FEATURE CAPTION: The new Medical Education Simulation Center in the School of Medicine is the only one of its kind in Orange County and among the most sophisticated medical simulation facilities in the country.

Medical education through simulation

The new Medical Education Simulation Center in the School of Medicine is the only one of its kind in Orange County and among the most sophisticated medical simulation facilities in the country.

SimMan 3G may look like any other mannequin, but he has abilities that make him virtually lifelike. He can perspire and cry. His eyes blink; his pupils respond to light. He has a pulse and can make heart, lung and bowel sounds. He can be programmed to talk. Most importantly, though, he can exhibit a variety of human health conditions.

And when he has a heart attack or goes into septic shock, medical students and resident physicians react as if he’s a genuine person.

“What’s most surprising is how real the experience is,” says Dr. Darren Raphael, a fourth-year anesthesiology resident at UC Irvine. “You see people get tense and sweat when working on the mannequin. You can really get into it.”

SimMan 3G is one of many state-of-the-art mannequins at the heart of the new Medical Education Simulation Center in UCI’s School of Medicine. Since opening over the summer, the 3,000-square-foot facility in the recently constructed Medical Education Building has been drawing a steady stream of admirers, from students and residents to Orange County paramedics and local teens interested in healthcare careers.

The center includes a mock full-scale operating room, ER, trauma bay, obstetrics suite and critical care unit. It’s the only one of its kind in Orange County and among the most sophisticated medical simulation centers in the country.

“Simulation is the wave of the future in the education of medical students, residents, postgraduate physicians and all other healthcare workers,” says Dr. Ralph V. Clayman, dean of the School of Medicine. “With this technology, we will be better able to teach, test and certify both the knowledge and the skills of our trainees. The ultimate beneficiaries of these advances will be our patients.”

First established in U.S. medical schools in the 1990s for anesthesiology instruction, simulation centers are now used in all areas of medical education, according to Dr. Sharon Lin, director of the UCI facility and assistant clinical professor of anesthesiology & perioperative care.

Over the past year, she led a team working with architects and contractors to make the center as similar as possible to a hospital environment. In addition, Lin developed course work and organized simulation programs for medical students and residents.

“Our simulation center provides a realistic clinical setting where physicians-in-training can gain the necessary experience without any risk to patients,” she says.

It’s among only a few in the nation to have mannequins that respond to anesthetic and other gases, including oxygen and carbon dioxide, providing a more authentic and complete educational experience.

Simulation training has been thoroughly integrated into UCI School of Medicine and nursing science classes. Sessions are videotaped and student actions documented for immediate review and performance evaluation.

“Watching the video afterward really enhances our learning,” says Raphael, who also earned his medical degree here. “It helps prepare us for crisis situations we might someday face — career-defining moments of life and death.”

The center is already a beehive of activity. In July, high school students in the Summer Premed Program practiced basic medical techniques on the family of adult and pediatric mannequins, and earlier this month, Orange County paramedics used the facility for training in emergency airway management. Scores of UCI students and residents rotate daily through what has become one of the most popular spots on campus.

“This simulation center is a source of pride for the medical school,” says Raphael, “and will make UCI a premier destination for aspiring doctors around the country.”

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