It’s ‘knot’ every day sixth graders learn surgical skills from the experts

What do sixth graders at the BCM Academy at Ryan have in common with our own trainees? Their surgical knot-tying skills, of course. That’s because the Ryan sixth graders learned the same technique as Baylor residents, though they didn’t have quite as long to perfect their skills.

A group of 300-plus middle school students recently visited Baylor for the school’s annual field trip here. They heard academic tips and advice from Dr. Tyson Pillow, associate professor of emergency medicine and EM residency program director, and from medical and graduate school students during a panel discussion, sat in on a presentation on careers in orthotics and prosthetics and got a history lesson at the DeBakey Library and Museum. They also participated in the hands-on knot-tying activity led by Dr. Nilson Salas, assistant professor and director of the Surgical Simulation Lab.

The students were introduced to the concept of two-handed knot tying skills through an instructional video they viewed at school, followed by classroom practice time. By the time they visited Baylor, most had a least some familiarity with the technique. They were divided into groups for the timed knot activity, with Salas and Surgical Simulation Center staff helping with the tricky technique.

“In general, we noticed that students were more engaged during class, due to preceding interactive activities requiring critical thinking. This allowed the classroom instruction to focus on the more challenging aspect of the knot-tying task,” Salas said. “This was also a great opportunity for the students to see that different careers may require different skills, knowledge and attitudes. Although these are very young students, I think it is never too early to remind them that hobbies, personal interests, strength, ability and skills may lead to a career interest previously unseen. This visit to BCM by the sixth graders interested in the medical field opens their eyes to career path options and exposed them to things that they do not normally see.”

The Simulation Lab is a vital resource for training residents and fellows in the latest surgical techniques, and it also offers continuing education for practicing surgeons and provides core lab support for pre-clinical research. The Lab even hosts a Surgical Olympics event, where residents practice the very knot-tying skills the Ryan visitors were introduced to, along with other advanced surgical techniques.

Baylor College of Medicine Academy at Ryan opened in 2013 on the site of the former Ryan Middle School in Houston. An affiliation of Baylor College of Medicine and the Houston Independent School District, the school offers a STEM magnet program with an emphasis on medical and biomedical sciences. They explore medicine outside the classroom through the school’s activities with Baylor and other organizations in the Texas Medical Center. The school’s mission is to provide students with early exposure to potential medical careers and to prepare them for success in high school, college and life.

Want to try out the technique yourself? Check out this video.