Posted November 16, 2022
Featuring Maureen Spinner

In a virtual world of remote meetings and digital communications, livestreaming a surgery for educational purposes may seem like a no-brainer. In reality, it’s anything but simple.

Dr. Maureen Spinner, assistant professor and soft tissue surgeon at the MSU Veterinary Medical Center, identified a limitation to her students’ learning: the inability to have hundreds of people in a veterinary operating room at one time.

The operating room is a constrained, biosecure area. There’s no room for extra bodies or equipment. Not to mention, patient privacy must be protected. Only a few individuals are allowed in the surgical suite while operations are underway. Some of these individuals are veterinary students at the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine, who have embarked on a rigorous curriculum that has them work alongside clinicians on actual clinical cases. For them, the more real-life medical situations they can observe, the better they can prepare themselves to be veterinarians in the near future.

Dr. Spinner, who is the head of the Soft Tissue Surgery service, wanted to expand student access to patient cases. She, alongside the Hospital's IT team, designed, created, and implemented a system of cameras to bring the operating room to a greater number of students. Thanks to this system, a password-protected, birds-eye-view of surgeries can be livestreamed to a nearby ward, where many of the College’s 115 fourth-year veterinary students can watch procedures they otherwise never would have been able to observe.

The videos allow students to view cases outside of the high-pressure environment of the operating theater, which opens their ability to formulate ideas, develop discussion topics to bring to their instructors, and generally be more inquisitive. Seeing pre-recorded cases might allow students additional time to pause, look up supplemental information to help them better understand what they are seeing, and walk away with a more comprehensive picture of the procedure.

Students Watching Surgery Livestream Screenshot
Veterinary students watch a surgery as it is livestreamed.

Going forward

Thanks to the success of this camera system, Dr. Spinner has been awarded a teaching grant to further her goals of improving her students’ learning experience. The next step in her mission: upgrade this homemade camera system to a state-of-the-art system called STORZ Integration, which offers greater digital security and expanded capabilities. With the added security of STORZ, students will be able to access surgery livestreams not just from the onsite ward, but also from their personal computers at home. This will allow them to observe an even greater number of procedures.

In addition, surgeons will be able to save the livestreamed videos to a secure network, so that they may be viewed asynchronously. Dr. Spinner envisions these videos being used not just for fourth-year clinical students, but also for pre-clinical students or even as a teaching aid beyond MSU.