State senators imitate doctors

by Justin Costley

Two state senators teamed up with University doctors Thursday to resuscitate a man suffering from cardiac arrest.
The man was actually a human patient simulator, and the senators were only playing “Docs for a day,” as the University welcomed legislators to see exactly what it’s like to be a doctor.
The presentation also allowed state senators and representatives to examine how state money is being spent.
Seventeen legislators took part in the seminar, which included topics such as family practice, neuroscience, molecular biology and genetics, cancer and heart surgery.
“The tour kind of puts a face, so to speak, on the funding that we give to the University,” said Sen. David Knutson, R-Burnsville.
“When we are just dealing with paper over there and a lot of big numbers, it helps to see exactly how it’s implemented over here,” he said.
The seminar is part of an expanding plan for the Medical School to educate not only legislators, but also ordinary people, about issues in medicine.
Medical School Dean Alfred Michael said it was important to give citizens an understanding of medical issues and the future of medicine.
In addition to holding seminars across the state for people, a Mini-Medical School seminar is already being planned for legislators again next year.
“We think the Legislature should really know what’s going on at their Medical School,” Michael said.
“The better they understand what we are, the better they understand us, the better they’ll understand what we need,” he said.
University officials used a $250,000 computer-operated patient simulator to make the understanding hands-on. The simulator is equipped to present students with all the medical scenarios and data of real-life situations.
Hooked up to heart monitors, oxygen machines and IV tubes, the virtual patient reacts exactly as a human patient would.
Sen. LeRoy Stumpf, DFL-Thief River Falls, chairman of the Senate higher education committee, and Sen. Sam Solon, DFL-Duluth, combined efforts to rescue the virtual patient.
The simulator is only at the University for demonstration purposes now. But University doctor Kumar Belani, who oversaw the rescue process, says the teaching opportunities make bringing the technology to the University a high priority.
Belani said he believes the simulator could become an instructional tool for paramedics, nurses, practicing doctors, residents and medical students.
After being handed the job of delivering lidocaine and epinephrine injections to the simulator, Stumpf remarked, “I should have watched more ‘ER.'”
“It was kind of a team effort, kind of like, here’s my responsibility, let’s get in there and do it,” Stumpf said. “I would much rather have a doctor have worked on that very live dummy than to practice on me firsthand.”

Justin Costley covers the Medical School and welcomes comments at jcostle[email protected]. He can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3224.