Student innovates with DIY laparoscopy trainer

Student innovates with DIY laparoscopy trainer

Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

And when Class of 2019 medical student Taylor Sellers had the will, he found the way.

Near the end of his second year at OUWB when Sellers was considering a surgical specialty, he wanted to learn more about laparoscopy. He knew that these minimally invasive procedures can comprise a significant portion of a surgeon’s daily schedule.

The fact that it isn’t usually taught in medical schools – including OUWB – didn’t stop him.

Sellers learned that skills are taught with a “box trainer,” but OUWB doesn’t own one. No matter. When exploring alternatives, he found journal articles about people who built their own. While he was inspired by the DIY examples, he was disappointed that none of the articles provided instructions he could follow to create one himself.

Sellers saw an opportunity to fill that gap.

“I wanted to make something both durable and reproducible so that it could be used by the school, but just as importantly, I wanted to document the process so that others could reproduce my model,” he says.

The Nevada native started by examining the box trainers in Beaumont Hospital’s Simulation Learning Institute. After noting dimensions and components, he ordered supplies ranging from an Ikea recycling bin to machine screws and alligator clips. As he built the box trainer, Sellers recorded every detail, including hole placement location and online purchase links for all parts and components.  

Project expands to include research

The construction project soon became a research initiative when the Simulation Learning Institute staff introduced the inquisitive student to Victoria Roach, Ph.D., OUWB assistant professor who studies surgical skills acquisition.

“When Taylor came to me with the idea for a low-cost, DIY box trainer, he was prepared with a fully assembled, fully functional prototype. There was no question in my mind that the box would do exactly what it was designed to do. That said, my only concern was ‘how are we going to test it?’ to prove the assertion that a DIY box trainer can be as effective as a commercial box for surgical skill training,” says Roach.

They decided to compare results from student training on five DIY boxes built for $50 each with training on a professional box borrowed from Beaumont Hospital.

In spite of the fact that medical students are time-crunched, all weekend training sessions filled up in 45 minutes. One group of 17 students used the DIY boxes; another same size group learned on a commercial box. Neither group knew which type they were using.

Training involved instruction followed by practice. All students showed significant performance improvement between their first and last task attempts, regardless of the trainer used. In fact, research results show that the $50 box trainer is as effective as the commercial device for training.

All materials now available online

Sellers, who ultimately decided to pursue diagnostic radiology and will begin his residency at the University of Iowa in June, has shared the research, training curriculum, and box trainer construction instructions on MedEdPortal®, a medical education resource.

While he achieved his goal, which was “to lower the barrier to entry,” Sellers also learned something about himself in the process.

“I discovered that I really enjoy teaching, so I plan to tailor my career towards academic medicine,” he says.                      

Whether the box trainers he built will continue to be used at OUWB isn’t yet known, but Roach appreciates the potential they offer.

“There’s no question that surgical specialties are progressing towards minimally invasive, laparoscopic and even robotic techniques, so I think it’s essential that we prepare our students for the realities of their futures — and in this case, that means bringing OR innovations into the classroom,” she says.

# # #


The students in the photos are:

Matthew Drogowski
Shelby Potkin
Timothy Hewitt
Guneet Kaleka
Morgan Nees Van Baalen