The Cullen Trust for Higher Education has pledged $334,000 to the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston for a facility that will house sophisticated surgical simulator mannequins and other devices to help surgical residents and medical students advance their clinical skills in realistic, but low risk, learning environments.
The 5,200-square-foot Surgical Simulation Center, located in UTMB’s University Hospital Clinics Building, will also serve as a statewide resource for training health care providers to practice procedures to reduce errors and significantly improve patient safety, leading to lower health care costs.
Once completed, the $5 million facility will have a laboratory where residents can engage in laparoscopic surgery training, an endoscopy/endovascular simulation lab and a robotic surgery training lab, one of the few curriculum-based robotic simulation enterprises in Texas. The simulation center will also feature a control room where faculty can monitor residents and remotely control simulation exercises, as well as a debriefing room where the residents will work with faculty to review surgical protocols. More than $1.4 million has been pledged or contributed to the center so far.
Dr. David L. Callender, UTMB president, said the trust’s generous support would help the university develop a state-of-the-art simulation facility that will accurately portray patient care situations. “I am grateful to The Cullen Trust for Higher Education for recognizing the enormous impact the Surgical Simulation Center will have in operating rooms,” Callender said. “The result is something we will all take pride in facilitating — safer, better surgeries and skilled, more confident surgeons and surgical teams.”
Dr. Gabriel Rodriguez, director of surgical simulation, said he looks forward to the day when the facility is fully functional.
“I am excited about the incredible opportunities that will be made possible by the Surgical Simulation Center,” said Rodriguez, section head of minimally invasive surgery in the UTMB Department of Surgery’s Urology Division. “Thanks to generous supporters like The Cullen Trust for Higher Education, we will have a first-rate facility that will create realistic scenarios for surgeons, residents and students to practice operating procedures repeatedly and plan for practically any contingency that may occur during surgery.”
UTMB has long been a leader in simulation training. For more than 30 years, the university’s medical students have been able to apply what they learn in patient care settings as early as their first weeks of school, thanks to standardized patients. Standardized patients are trained actors who portray various illnesses for students to diagnose. UTMB’s standardized patient program, one of the first of its kind in the United States, helps future health care professionals learn how to conduct physical exams and health counseling sessions as they begin to master the nuances of patient care.
The university also is home to a simulation program, supported by the department of anesthesiology, which focuses on simulated training for residents and medical students in anesthesia, airway management, trauma resuscitation and other areas. The UTMB School of Nursing utilizes simulation to enable students to practice procedures in various clinical settings, including pediatric, neonatal, infant, emergency and adult acute care scenarios.
In addition to The Cullen Trust for Higher Education, UTMB has received major funding for the project from Dr. and Mrs. Peter Thompson of Houston. A UTMB alumnus, Thompson is the grandson of Dr. James Thompson, who founded the university’s department of surgery when the medical school opened in 1891.
Dr. and Mrs. Charles H. McCollum have made a significant contribution to the simulation center as well. The Houston surgeon, also a UTMB graduate, is professor and vice chairman of surgery education at Baylor College of Medicine.
The Cullen Trust for Higher Education is one of three charitable trusts that were created by The Cullen Foundation in the 1970s. For more than five decades, the foundation has generously supported education, the arts and health care in Texas, particularly in the greater Houston area.