Synthetic body parts used to teach Arizona medical students

PHOENIX - The Downtown Phoenix campus of the University of Arizona College of Medicine looked like the set of a horror movie Wednesday as the college debuted the most advanced synthetic human body parts.

Simulated severed heads, hands, a baby in an incubator and even an entire cadaver on a stretcher were there as the partnership was announced between the University and SynDaver™ Labs which produces the parts.

The school is the first in the world to use these state-of-the-art teaching tools at their Phoenix-based Health Sciences Center.

SynDaver™ technology is designed to simulate as much as possible the experience of working on a human body without any potential for harm. 

"What's really so enthralling and unique about these models is that when you touch them and cut into them and when you sew into them they feel just like human skin, tissue, muscle and fascia," says Dr. Teresa Wu, Director of Simulation Education at the college.

For second-year medical student James Gentry, being able to work on the synthetic tissue makes it easier for him to concentrate not only on procedures, but also leave room for error.

"It gets you through the routine of doing the procedure and there are so many details that you may not think about before going into real life (treatment)," he says. "It gives you confidence which I think is the biggest thing you need as a student."  

Wu adds that these will be invaluable tools not only for students but also for patients who may seek treatment.

"We'll be able to formulate a team of physicians that is really working together to enhance patient safety, improve medical education and diminish the amount of risk that we put to patients in the clinical scenario," Wu says. "We're going to move everything into the training environment so that the doctors are safe to practice when they get out of training."

Which for students like Gentry, is entirely the point.

"If you can figure out how to avoid those situations as much as possible and minimize people's pain, I think that's anyone's goal," Gentry says.

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