Local students get hands-on with surgical innovation at Tanner

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The future of the community met the future of health care Wednesday at Tanner Medical Center/Carrollton.

Students from Carrollton City and Carroll County schools got an up-close and hands-on preview of a possible career in surgical services and the technological advancements in surgery during Tanner Health System’s “Advancing STEM” event.

The event included an overview of careers in surgical services and the levels of education necessary for each, from a high school diploma to a medical doctorate and surgical residency. Students then got to go hands-on with Tanner’s sophisticated surgical services tools, including a da Vinci Xi surgical robotic system identical to the one used in Tanner’s own operating suites, as well as minimally invasive surgery that allows procedures to be performed with smaller incisions and more comfortable recoveries than traditional, “open” surgery.

Mason Oehler, a student from Central Middle School, found the difference between the surgical approaches analogous to video games — as a middle school student would.

“That’s a N64,” he said, comparing traditional surgery to a popular Nintendo game system from the 1990s. He then pointed at the da Vinci Xi robotic surgery system, “and this is an Xbox One.”

Unlike traditional open surgery that uses large incisions, Tanner offers a wide range of surgical approaches that use a minimally invasive approach with tiny implements inserted through a series of small incisions. The small incisions heal faster, cause less blood loss, a reduced risk of complications and infection after surgery, and less discomfort during recovery. Many patients who undergo a minimally invasive procedure at Tanner are able to return home the same day as their surgery, without a lengthy hospital stay.

During the demonstration, students used minimally invasive surgical implements and the robotic surgery console to get a feel for how surgeons encounter their work, picking up hard items like dimes and softer items like rubber bands to get a tactile experience.

The students also learned about the different approaches to surgery and the wide range of careers necessary for a surgical program, from sterile processing to clean and prepare surgical implements to assisting surgeons on the operating suite. During the hands-on demonstration, they competed to obtain a higher score on a da Vinci training console, moving three-dimensional jacks into cups of corresponding colors with a set of robotic hands.

About 200 students from Carrollton High School, Carrollton Junior High School, Carrollton Middle School, Central Middle School and the Carroll County College and Career Academy participated in the event.

While she was impressed with the technology, Central Middle School sixth-grader Mikya Long was still not persuaded to pursue a career in health care: “I want to be a teacher,” she said.

More information about the surgical services available at Tanner is available online at www.SurgeryAtTanner.org.


Tee Hawkins, a fourth-grader at Carrollton Middle School, watches the robotic “hands” of Tanner’s da Vinci Xi robotic-assisted surgery platform while one of his classmates “operates” from the console. Hawkins was among about 200 local students who got a hands-on experience with the technology Tanner Health System uses for minimally invasive surgery during Tanner’s Advancing STEM event.