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UW’s WWAMI Medical Education Program Benefits from Local Physician Volunteers’ Experiences

December 14, 2020
man and woman in scrubs and masks
Dr. Jack Ullrich (right), a general surgeon at Ivinson Memorial Hospital, provides instruction to Sierra Levene, a first-year WWAMI student from Laramie, on how to begin and complete a suturing procedure on a chicken thigh. The same tools and techniques would be used to apply stitches to a wound in the human body or during a surgical procedure. (Tori Johnson Photo)

The University of Wyoming’s WWAMI Medical Education Program recently provided opportunities for clinical faculty and local physician volunteers to work together to give medical students real-life work experience.

The WWAMI (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho) Medical Education Program offered three workshops/clinics last month in Laramie.

An ultrasound workshop was presented at Ivinson Memorial Hospital (IMH) Nov. 16. The workshop, organized by second-year medical student Marley Realing, of Casper, focused on POCUS (point-of-care ultrasound). Drs. Jerry Realing and Megan Grube, a 2014 Wyoming WWAMI graduate, both emergency medicine physicians from Casper, used a combination of hand-held and portable ultrasound units provided by the hospital.

“This was an especially useful clinic as we had emergency medicine practitioners from Casper come into town, and both taught us how to use ultrasound as well as shared their experiences and techniques with us,” says Peter McCullough, a second-year medical student from Lander. “It was great to get an idea of what works and doesn’t work in a clinical setting from physicians who use ultrasound every day.”

A suturing clinic took place Nov. 18 in a WWAMI classroom in the UW College of Health Sciences. Presented by the Wyoming WWAMI Surgery Interest Group, the clinic allowed 20 first-year students and a dozen second-year students to work under the direction of medical school faculty and physician volunteers from IMH. Students learned suturing, or sewing a surgical seam, using chicken thighs and bananas as their “patients.”

Drs. Jack Ullrich and Peter Graham, both general surgeons at IMH, demonstrated the tools and techniques these future physicians would use to apply stitches to a wound in the human body or during a surgical procedure.

“The suture clinic was a fantastic opportunity to practice an important skill that will almost certainly be important throughout the course of our careers, regardless of specialty choice,” says Sierra Levene, a first-year medical student from Laramie.

WWAMI faculty physicians Julie Carlson, along with John and Yvette Haeberle, also assisted in showing students the correct way to start and finish a suturing procedure. These same faculty members also serve as mentors to the students.

“There is absolutely no way that the Wyoming WWAMI program could exist without the support and enthusiasm of our local practicing physicians,” says Yvette Haeberle, WWAMI clinical curriculum director. “I remain encouraged by and grateful for their support.”

Dr. Tracey Haas, a physician and college mentor in the WWAMI program, along with Premier Bone & Joint Centers’ (PBJC) Ambulatory Surgery Center, hosted a casting clinic Nov. 19. Dr. Mark McKenna, a physician at PBJC and a WWAMI program preceptor, who graduated from the Wyoming WWAMI program in 2005, along with Dr. Tim Gueramy, a physician at PBJC who specializes in foot and ankle injuries, assisted Haas. PBJC donated the materials used in the casting clinic.

Sixteen second-year medical students were shown how to make and apply a short-leg and short-arm cast for treating a break in a person’s lower leg bone or forearm, respectively. Students took turns casting one another’s “broken arms and legs.” Once a cast was in place, the materials used to form the cast were allowed to harden and then were cut off, in much the same way a physician removes a cast after a broken bone has healed.

“We were very fortunate to have Drs. Gueramy and McKenna, experts in their respective orthopedic practices, provide their knowledge, time and resources to train medical students despite the current pandemic,” says Anthony Menghini, a second-year medical student from Cheyenne. “The program relies on physicians dedicated to passing on their passion for medicine and clinical expertise to the future doctors of Wyoming.”

people putting cast on woman's arm
Anthony Menghini (left), a second-year WWAMI student from Cheyenne, looks on while Dr. Mark McKenna, a physician at Premier Bone & Joint Centers, assists second-year WWAMI student Amanda Galambas, from Gillette, with her newly minted arm cast. Dr. Tim Gueramy (right), a physician at Premier Bone & Joint Centers, observes the procedure. (Tracey Haas Photo)

Amanda Galambas, a second-year medical student from Gillette, says knowing how to do a basic arm and leg cast will be very useful when the WWAMI students are in clinical rotations, particularly emergency medicine.

“I know that I will be more confident when I am asked to cast a real patient in the future,” she says.

Tim Robinson, director of the Wyoming WWAMI program, says the program receives an incredible amount of support from Wyoming physicians, IMH and PBJC.

“When I think of the intense work schedules that our Wyoming physicians have on a day-in and day-out basis, it’s humbling to watch how these physicians jump in to help our students in their medical school training,” Robinson says. “During my entire tenure as WWAMI director, Ivinson Memorial Hospital and Premier Bone & Joint Centers have always been incredibly gracious in sharing their facilities and resources for the sake of preparing the next generation of physicians in Wyoming. Our great state of Wyoming owes a lot to these providers for their support of medical education in our state.”

Not all students listed below participated in all workshops/clinics.

Second-year WWAMI students, listed by hometown, are:

Casper -- Caleb Hardt, Bradley Lutz, Natasha Radosevich, Marley Realing and Chae Sutherland.

Cheyenne -- Jacob Kennedy, Anthony Menghini and Samantha Pettigrew.

Douglas -- Hayden True.

Gillette -- Amanda Galambas and Perry Smith.

Green River -- Daniel Lancaster.

Lander -- Peter McCullough.

Laramie -- Tyler Loose and Lauren McVeigh.

Pine Haven -- Savanah Richter.

Sheridan -- Thomas Fenn and Annie Smidt.

Worland -- Larissa Siirila.

Wright -- Michael Yeradi.

First-year WWAMI students, listed by hometown, are:

Byron -- Austin Ellis.

Casper -- Bret Andrew, Joseph Keating and Dane Patey.

Cheyenne -- Jackson McCue, Rikki Nelson and Bryce Snow.

Cody -- Grace Nicholas and Taylor Thompson.

Gillette -- Ariel Rap.     

Green River -- Holly Huber.

Laramie -- Madeleine Isler and Sierra Levene.  

Moran -- Cade Budak.

Pinedale -- Luiza Bosch.

Powell -- Blake Hopkin.  

Sheridan -- Drew Adriaens and Maison Furley.

Thermopolis -- Cody Abbott.

Wheatland -- Audrey Lucas.

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