Training in technical skills and surgical procedures has had a long rich tradition at OHSU dating back to 1992, when Dr. Brett Sheppard implemented the clinical and educational laparoscopic surgery program. When John Hunter jointed the Department of Surgery in 2001 as the Mackenzie Professor and Chairman of the Department, he brought international recognition to the OHSU minimally invasive surgery program and the vision to set a course for integration of simulation into the surgical education program at OHSU.
During this time period, surgical simulation was limited to 500 square feet located on the fifth floor of University Hospital, and 350 square feet of space within the Department of Surgery. In January 2005, a formal laparoscopic training program was initiated within the OHSU Department of Surgery in recognition of the obstacles residents encountered utilizing training facilities without a formal education plan.
In 2007, Dr. Donn Spight was named as the Medical Director for Surgical Simulation Education. Dr. Spight embarked on a vigorous program to enhance surgical simulation training for the residents. A bold expansion of the resident education program ensued, and by 2008, ultrasound, vascular, open, endoscopic, and communication skills were added to the curriculum. The expanded curriculum removed all categorical and preliminary post graduate year surgery residents from clinical duties for five hours every Monday, representing significant investment to education by the Department.
The rapidly expanding simulation efforts no longer met the training needs of the residents. In 2009, a new room located in the Old Library building was dedicated to simulation as part of the VirtuOHSU network providing 1500 square feet of space. Additionally, a room directly adjacent to the operating room suites was dedicated to simulation as the "warm up" area for surgery residents prior to beginning a minimally invasive surgical procedure.
Between 2009 and 2012, VirtuOHSU saw a dramatic expansion in the depth and breadth of offerings to a variety of users, both surgical and non-surgical focused. Industry grant, in-kind and philanthropic support has surpassed 1 million dollars. The utilization of the skills lab increased almost 50% in 3 academic calendar years. 10,000 simulation user visits generated 1100 hours of lab use. The impact that the presence of a robust simulation program had on resident satisfaction and recruitment became evident in departmental surveys and by the dramatic increase in medical students choosing surgery as a career and the caliber of residency applicants.
Recognizing that the distance of CLSB from the main OHSU hospital limited widespread use by surgical specialties a decision was made to keep technical skills training on the "hill". To keep parity with the new facilities on the waterfront the existing gross anatomy space was remodeled and combined with VirtuOHSU to create a beautiful new 7500 square foot simulation suite in Richard Jones Hall. This highly versatile space supports open, laparoscopic, endoscopic and microscopic technical skills training using virtual reality, synthetic tissues, dry lab trainers, animal tissues or cadaveric tissues for many different learner groups.
The primary goal of VirtuOHSU is to provide a controlled setting for simulation of technical skills and invasive procedures. Learners include medical students, residents, physicians in practice, physicians seeking re-entry into the work force or needing remediation, nursing and other healthcare providers. VirtuOHSU provides educational resources for other institutional entities in simulation curriculum development and implementation. VirtuOHSU also actively participates in healthcare pipeline activities that are critical to the state of Oregon. Undergraduate and high school students are exposed to surgical career opportunities through partnerships with the AHEC, MedStars, MedStars Jr., REAP (Reaching and Empowering all People) and Saturday Academy Programs. Finally, VirtuOHSU provides a setting for research in surgical education and a laboratory for technological innovation.