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Orthopedic Residency Proves to be Bonafide Program as it Nears Fourth Decade

Published on Tuesday, March 15, 2016

McLaren Flint orthopedic surgeons and support staff are nearing their fourth decade of training residents. The program became a reality in the mid-seventies under the leadership of Dr. Mel Wolfe and Dr. Bernie Harris. Dr. Norman Walter was the first graduate of McLaren’s Orthopedic Residency Program. He continues to serve as the Program Director for the Orthopedic Residency Program.

The residency program is one of three at the hospital. Only 15 residents can be in the program each year. They spend a total of five years learning their surgical specialty and three residents graduate each spring. The first year of training consists of reading and observing. The second year in the program allows for some minor patient interaction. In year three, residents work alongside the hospital’s orthopedic surgeons. Fourth and fifth year residents perform portions of patients’ surgeries under the direct supervision of the surgeons.

“Our goal is to train them well enough that we would be comfortable with them operating on our own family members,” states Dr. Ajay Srivastava, Orthopedic Surgeon. “The residents will take part in a wide variety of almost 3,000 cases during their time with us.”

Among the additional ways residents train are Grand Rounds which are held every Wednesday for three hours. Presentations on specific topics take place, covering topics such as: anatomy, fractures, surgeries, complications, and mortalities. A special partnership with Kettering University also brings weekly instruction on the physics behind everything, led by Dr. Patrick Atkinson, Professor of Mechanical Engineering. Then there are opportunities referred to as the “sawbones” provided by vendors like Zimmer Biomet. The Sawbones is a simulation lab that uses all of the tools really used in the operating room, including the implants. The most recent one took place in late January, which was a hands-on session for knee replacement.

sawbones in use at clinic Sawbones in use at the clinic

With the need for hands-on learning, Sawbones and sometimes cadaver clinics, make it possible to learn surgical skills and techniques without placing the public at any unnecessary risks. These events start with a lecture followed by a practical portion. The residents use the real tools of the trade including specialized hammers and drills to cut into bone-like material that mimics human anatomy.

First year resident Joshua Hammond had the opportunity to work on his first knee at the training. He states, “I have a general idea of what is going on but opportunities like the Sawbones give me a better understanding of the instruments and enable me to wrap my mind around using them at the right time for the right part of the process.”

sawbones simulation lab
Orthopedic residents participate in "Sawbones" simulation labs to train with the tools and implants used in the operating room.

“The process mimics pilots using a flight simulator,” states Dr. Srivastava. “Our training processes copy many things from the airline industry including taking time outs, doing cross checks and balances and making sure the team is in full agreement regarding decisions in the operating room.”

Senior residents, like James Ostrander, MD, wear many hats during their time at the hospital.

“My role as a senior resident is multifaceted,” states Dr. Ostrander. “I am honing my surgical skills while assisting the attending surgeon. I am also a patient advocate. As residents, we are learning the latest techniques and constantly challenging the surgeons to see if there is an improved treatment option for a given problem. This results in the residency program bringing increased quality of care to the patients we serve. I am involved in direct patient care in place of the surgeon where appropriate. Finally, as a senior resident, I am a teacher and role model to the first, second and third year residents. I cannot say enough about how Medical Education is committed to improving the quality of the education a resident receives at McLaren Flint, how the faculty truly care about our well-being and how supportive the McLaren Foundation is in providing funding for conferences, research and training equipment.”

The devoted group of surgeons from Ortho Michigan, who instruct the residents, say teaching keeps them on their toes and on the front line of patient care. Five members of their group are graduates of the McLaren Flint program and Dr. Ostrander will be the sixth when his residency is complete and he also joins the practice.