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Why We Serve the Community

Elisabeth Pain’s article in Science Careers last week about professional service explained how many academic scientists consider it, at best, a necessary evil. Here’s a story that will give you a good reason to make mentoring school children and other service to the community a bigger part of your academic life.

The University of Florida’s medical school witnessed a new surgical technique last week that simplifies sutures and reduces complications from hysterectomies. What made this demonstration notable, aside from its medical substance, was the fact that the procedure was developed by a 14 year-old middle-school student.

Tony Hansbury II is a student at Darnell-Cookman Middle/High School in Jacksonville, Florida, a magnet school with a focus on medical studies. Hansbury, whose mother is a registered nurse, learned the basics of suturing in his 8th grade classes at Darnell-Cookman, and last summer he interned at University of Florida’s Center for Simulation Education and Safety Research, also in Jacksonville.

Bruce Nappi, the center’s administrative director and an MIT-trained engineer, noticed Hansbury’s enthusiasm and encouraged him to explore topics he found interesting. One of those areas was the center’s surgical lab.

During the internship, an OB/GYN professor asked Nappi and Hansbury to solve a vexing problem involving the use of a new tool to ease the sewing up hysterectomy patients. The use of the tool, called an endo stitch, had stumped expert surgeons, who apparently could not get it to work properly. But Hansbury, working independently, discovered a way of using the tool that was both simple and effective. With no surgical training other than what he picked up in his classes and as an intern, Hansbury was able to triple the speed of the endo stitch.

On 24 April, Hansbury demonstrated the technique as part of the university’s medical education week. The audience included many board-certified surgeons, some with practices running longer than Hansbury’s young life.

Makes you want to run out and start mentoring, doesn’t it?

Hat tip: Daily Kos