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Orthopedic Residency Program and Kettering University have Unique Partnership

Published on Friday, June 10, 2016

Like the Sawbones clinics held in January of this year, orthopedic surgical residents and medical students from Michigan State University (MSU) have a unique, once-a-year learning opportunity each spring at McLaren Flint. Due to the generosity of those who choose to donate their bodies to science, the hospital’s orthopedic residency program is able to offer a cadaver clinic. Patrick Atkinson, PhD, professor of Mechanical Engineering at Kettering University, started the clinic 16 years ago. 

“The clinic is treated just like a real surgery,” states Dr. Atkinson. “Radiology even scans the bones for us so there are x-ray images to examine before the procedures begin.”

With the need for hands-on learning, the yearly cadaver clinic makes it possible to learn surgical skills and techniques without placing the public at any unnecessary risks. The day starts with a lecture followed by the practical portion. It is an important educational opportunity that serves multiple purposes.

The MSU students who are considering orthopedic surgery are allowed to watch and assist by handing instrumentation to the chief residents who perform actual hip and knee replacements.  This unique activity is a memorable experience for the medical students who typically then apply for the new residency positions which must be filled each year.  Residents in years one through four of their training assist by teaching the surgical approach.  The chief residents also teach as they perform the joint replacements. Representatives from the company that makes the very specialized surgical instruments and joint replacement devices, are present to get firsthand feedback from the clinicians who will use their products in the future. This year was extra special for those who took part as they were using a brand new version of joint implants.

“Much of the time needed for an orthopedic surgical implant revolves around all of the measuring that is necessary to fit the replacement in the body properly,” adds Dr. Atkinson. “Because of the feedback the implant manufacturers get from residents in training clinics like those held at McLaren, and surgeons in the O.R., they are able to continue to make the surgical instruments and implant technology better and better, helping to cut back on the time it takes to do a replacement from several hours to often just one hour.”

Dr. Atkinson is grateful to McLaren for the opportunity to work with the residency program and all of the research that has come from the partnership between the two institutions. He has a passion for both teaching and research. At McLaren his teaching comes in to play with weekly instruction on the physics behind everything (biomechanics). Fourth year orthopedic surgery residents also spend a four month research rotation with him. In addition, he assists with any orthopedic related research project that someone in the program works on each year. Through his work with residents at McLaren and engineering students at Kettering over the years he has specialized in crash safety and occupant protection research. The results of Dr. Atkinson’s years of working with and inspiring students at both institutions continues to benefit all of us whether we are riding in our vehicle, or contemplating a knee or hip replacement.