Thursday, June 22

UCLA center helps train international medical staff


Stephen Sheridan filmed as the 14-year old Iraqi boy entered an air force hospital in Balad, Iraq with his left arm nearly severed off. The boy had multiple shrapnel wounds, and chunks of his left thigh were missing.

Sheridan videotaped the boy from arrival to recovery, sneaking him ice cream occasionally.

When the boy survived, the doctors called him worthy of the record books, but others Sheridan filmed were not so fortunate.

Soldiers with ravaged torsos and unceasing infections. Bodies with their intestines visible on the operating table. Gashes streaked across children’s faces.

Over the course of six weeks, Sheridan and his assistant captured 100 hours of such scenes as part of an educational DVD program meant to help doctors transition from civilian to combat casualty care, said Koren Bertolli, program producer .

Created through a grant from the Department of Defense, the DVD contains live emergency room footage, hundreds of pages of medical text and various tutorials.

Professor Eric Savitsky, editor in chief of the program, teaches emergency medicine at UCLA, and also formed the Center for International Medicine with Bertolli.

Bertolli said the center, which opened in 2002, creates multimedia-training materials for international health care providers.

In 2007, the two joined with Cheryl Hein to form Pelagique, a company that uses technology at the university to create usable products, Bertolli said.

Savitsky had the medical expertise, Hein had the engineering knowledge and Bertolli had a background in media production.

“(The combat-care program) was the perfect job for the company,” Bertolli said. “It made a lot of sense.”

She added that one of the hardest parts of the project was securing the footage, which was facilitated by Craig Goolsby, an emergency physician who completed his residency at UCLA before deployment in Iraq.

Goolsby facilitated the long process of army protocol necessary to send Sheridan to Iraq, where he lived and filmed for weeks at Air Force Theater Hospital in Balad, Bertolli said.

“It was like going to the moon,” Sheridan said. “You never knew what to expect. Some things got as gory as you could imagine.”

Along with the DVD, Pelagique created the prototype of a computer ultrasound simulator, which negates the need for a user to have an in-person instructor, a real ultrasound machine or patients to practice on.

“The idea behind the simulator is to provide a means of education for people at home or in the workplace,” Bertolli said. “It’s a program you load onto your (computer), and what you get is a virtual body and an ultrasound probe, and as you manipulate a physical probe, it moves the one on the screen.”

According to Bertolli, Pelagique should have a commercial version by the end of the year, so anyone can buy the simulator.

The DVD was released at a military medicine conference in August before an audience of 1,000 people, Bertolli said. The military now distributes it internally to armed forces medical personnel.

“We hope above else that it will provide important information to people who are deploying … and in preparing medical staff who are about to deploy with tools they need, so they can hit the ground running,” Bertolli said.

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