Students Observe Live Open-Heart Surgery

Students Observe Live Open-Heart Surgery

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Kristin Simonetti
October 16, 2014

Seven fall interns took part in a field trip Oct. 15 that definitely was not for the faint of heart. They joined cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Hassan Tetteh '93 at the Inova Heart and Vascular Institute in Fairfax, Va., where they would watch a live operation in the center's Edward Lefrak Observation Dome.


"I was so excited when I saw this event coming up," said Kayla Cabral (Institution: Bridgewater State University, Mass.; Internship: Iona Senior Services), a biology major who is considering a medical career.


Trish Seifert, a registered nurse who has assisted more than 3,000 cardiovascular surgeries, led the TWC group on a tour of the Inova facility, which is considered one of the United States' most complete and technologically advanced medical and research centers. Seifert then gave students a briefing about the patient's case and an overview of the procedure they would witness.


For the next three hours, TWC students watched as a team of doctors completed a coronary artery bypass graft surgery. The procedure involves harvesting a vein from the patient's leg and grafting it to a blocked coronary artery, allowing blood to flow freely to the heart. Seifert and Tetteh narrated the operation, providing explanations for the actions students were watching through windows in the center of the Dome - an obseration area directly above the operating room.


A couple of students, including Cabral, planned to pursue health-care careers, but several had other professional aspirations. Regardless, Tetteh said, the bypass surgery had relevance in each of their lives. One of them may need the procedure or have a family member who will someday. And all citizens have an interest in the rising costs of health care.


"Seeing the operating room is a perspective that most people never get," Tetteh said, noting the number of people - as many as eight at one point - and the sophisticated equipment involved. "You can see how many resources are being spent here, but every person in that room has an important role in getting our patient through the case, through it safely and with a good outcome.


"Operations like this happen thousands of times every day in hospitals across the country, and these are things that help drive up health costs."


Learn more about Tetteh's impressive career path in this May 2014 Q&A with TWC.


Robert Jastrzebski (Institution: Anna Maria College, Mass.; Internship: U.S. Food and Drug Administration) was no stranger to surgery; the past two generations of his family include brain and eye surgeons. He didn't feel squeamish when the incisions began - but even he was surprised a bit by the proceedings.


"I was amazed at how many people were involved," he said. "When my father, an eye surgeon, did surgeries, he was usually the only one."


For Cabral, who recently considered shifting her career focus to mental health care, a day in the Dome may have prompted another change of heart.


"Part of me has always wanted to go into medicine," she said. "This is probably my favorite part of my TWC experience so far."


View more photos from the Inova Institute visit via Flickr.

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