By Kirstin Grace-Simons (Madigan Army Medical Center)July 10, 2019
Editor's note: Madigan Works! is a video series created especially for social media platforms to inform patients and the general public alike what goes on behind-the-scenes to make Madigan work. Each episode will have an accompanying article. This episode offers a view of how Madigan cuts the edge of research and innovation.
MADIGAN ARMY MEDICAL CENTER, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. -- In the last year alone, the residents, interns, fellows and staff of Madigan Army Medical Center's 35 Graduate Medical Education programs gave 191 presentations at scientific meetings, published 108 articles in peer-reviewed PubMed searchable journals and earned $10.4 million in grant funding. Madigan also has patents pending for its medical breakthroughs.
From its earliest days, Madigan has been a teaching hospital and engaged in cutting-edge research and innovation. On a search for the new and the next, Col. Suzie Scott, the hospital's deputy commanding officer, recently found Madigan's latest explorations are straight out of science fiction.
Scott visited a part of the Andersen Simulation Center where she found Thomas "Phil" Phillips, a simulation expert, calibrating a headset that connects to a computer and mannequin.
"The learners are seeing augmented reality. There's going to be an overlay that they can interact with," Phillips explained to Scott as he gave her the headset.
"Oh, this is cool! Check it out!" said Scott with a big grin on her face as she tilted her head to bring a picture of a beating heart above the mannequin into view.
She pinched the air to select from a menu to isolate the heart and float it above the mannequin, then bring it towards her. She leaned her head into the heart, seeing the inside of its arteries and chambers.
Working with the augmented reality equipment as well as the center's variety of mannequins, some of which have full anatomy and very realistic skin, fat and organs, offers the doctors and medics in training an experience as close to the real thing as it gets without spilling blood.
"The center's staff also hosts a week-long field exercise to send Madigan's graduating resident doctors off with a taste of what combat medicine is all about," stated Scott.
Madigan provided the model for the now commonplace research year included within its residency programs. Each year, the hospital hosts Madigan Research Day -- an event dedicated to sharing the advances residents and staff have made in their research endeavors throughout the year.
To get on the packed agenda, a researcher works through the Department of Clinical Investigation, which supports the many protocols and programs, does searches of literature in the medical library and conducts studies and trails.
Innovative techniques and equipment are to be found throughout the facility.
"One area that's been using advanced technology for a while now is the Urology Clinic. But, they aren't alone; robotics are being used in procedures big and small," said Scott.
She found testing of new methods in the Center for Nursing Science and Clinical Inquiry, where she was greeted by nurse scientist Mary McCarthy and research nurse Barb Szekely, and a booth that exposes a patient to ultraviolet B light.
"We have a study on the efficacy of this device to stimulate vitamin D production in the skin; it is a necessary part of the Food and Drug Administration approval process for new devices," explained McCarthy.
"The question we are trying to answer here is, will UVB light exposure in this booth boost vitamin D in the blood to healthy levels and will that increase last through a deployment, or a gloomy Northwest winter," said Szekely. "This is just one of the many studies we perform to promote overall health and well-being."
While the results show there is much to be learned through all this research, the impact on actual patients may not be as clear to the outside observer.
The advantage for patients of innovative methods becomes obvious in the Refractive Eye Clinic where Col. (Dr.) Mark Torres, a corneal specialist, showed Scott the latest treatment for keratoconus - a condition that weakens the cornea, allowing its shape to distort and cause blurry and impaired vision. Prior to the FDA approving use of corneal cross-linking, corneal replacement was the only remedy for the condition that can cause blindness and afflicts teens and young adults most often.
"This is a great leap forward for these kids, and it's just a matter of vitamin B and some ultraviolet light. Sometimes the advances are simpler than you might expect. Now that that recipe is fine-tuned, we can help save some eyesight," said Torres.
Torres can point to two patients whose passions and career goals are now within sight because of this procedure.
"Sean (dela Pena), for example, is going to college and planning to major in aerospace engineering. You really depend on your eyes for such a great pursuit. And Jason (Torres), even at his young age, he's a really good artist. This procedure lets them just focus on their future," Torres said.
These examples represent the thinnest slice of the research and innovation happening all the time at Madigan.
To see this episode, and all the others in the video series, of Madigan Works!, check out the Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/MadiganHealth/