Students see surgery's cutting edge

Last updated 11:29 14/02/2014

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Potential doctors, anaesthetists and medical technicians had a closer look at a side of medicine rarely open to the public when a surgical expo came to Nelson College.

Director of the mobile surgical project, Stuart Gowland, who is a college old boy, said yesterday's expo was all about recruitment. The main message high school students commonly heard about a career in medicine was that it was extremely difficult, but that was not necessarily the case.

"We think a lot of potentially good doctors and nurses - and nurses are just as important - don't give [medicine] a go because they think, ‘I can't possibly be that good'."

A surgical bus, satellite van equipped with communications equipment, and a lithotripter bus aiming to combat kidney stones all visited the college.

It meant 75 year 12 students enrolled in biology were able to practise laparoscopic or keyhole surgery using special simulators, and were able to watch Dr Suzanne Buker perform a kidney stone operation via a live video link to Nelson Hospital. Mr Gowland said a couple of the boys fainted, but felt this was likely due to conditions inside the mobile medical buses rather than any squeamishness.

"There was no blood and guts or anything. You guys see blood and guts all the time on the TV, there's no magic in that."

Surgeon Ros Pochin was on hand to talk to the boys about laparoscopic surgery. She said patience was more important in surgery than many people expected.

"It's not as glamorous as it is on TV, and in real life, it's much more frustrating and tedious."

Headmaster Gary O'Shea said it was a privilege to host the roadshow, especially as 2013 dux Oliver Coleman was New Zealand's top biology scholar. "The boys are really buzzing, and I think the staff are too."

Head of biology Johnnie Frazer said he hoped the boys would realise that they didn't need to be a surgeon or an anaesthetist to get involved with medicine as there were many technician positions available. He said his students were fascinated by the technology on offer.

"I think they're really interested in gore. They like the idea of sawing off limbs and chopping up torsos."

Student Jack Candy, 16, who is from Okaramio, said he was particularly interested in the kidney surgeries as he had undergone many of the same procedures himself. He has only one kidney, which is grossly enlarged.

"The same surgeries they're talking about are the ones I've had. It's weird, but I feel better knowing what's happening."

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- Nelson

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