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Patient bleeds, blisters and teaches, again and again

Stan, a lifelike simulator, helps train medical workers who would respond to a biological or chemical attack.

By Associated Press
Published January 2, 2004

SARASOTA - Stan can be shot and suffer the effects of nerve gas. He can bleed and he can die. His body can react to injections of medicine. He can even complain when doctors are working on him.

Stan, a lifelike medical training simulator, has helped train physicians and nurses for years. He now has a new role to play training military medics and first-responder crews who would be called to the scene of a biological terror attack.

Those who do such high-level training say the simulator can give medical personnel a chance to work on real-life injuries from war or terrorist attacks that would be unlikely to turn up in a routine emergency room setting.

"This technology allows medics to get real-life experience in a risk-free environment," said Lou Oberndorf, president and CEO of Medical Education Technologies Inc., which produces Stan.

It isn't just that Stan - short for Standard Man - can mimic the medical reactions of a human being injured in war or in a terror attack that makes him an effective teaching tool, say those who use the simulator. Stan is so lifelike that medical personnel can feel his pulse, hear his lungs breathe and see his eyes dilate as a computer program causes him to react to different medical scenarios.

A voice box attached to an instructor can suddenly give Stan the ability to complain or yell out in pain.

The students are so caught up in working with Stan they forget he isn't human, some cursing when he dies or cheering when they save him. The company bills Stan as the most advanced human patient simulator on the market - the most elaborate model costs about $200,000.

"It is real," said Chris Jackson, technical director for the University of South Florida's department of anesthesiology. "It's as real as a real patient can be." The university trains doctors using Stan at Tampa General Hospital.

"The level of interaction we have with him is amazing," said Jon Rinard, who supervises a nationwide program training emergency medical personnel through a program at Texas A&M University. "It does pull students into a real-time, real-life scenario."

The training program is designed to treat casualties from a weapons of mass destruction attack. The simulator, renamed "Charlie," can mimic the effects of nerve agents or chemical agents. Its eyes will tear up, and saliva will run from his mouth while blisters or rashes appear on his skin.

Students have to figure out what he has been exposed to and react to save him. More than 4,000 medical personnel in all 50 states have undergone the training.

"They feel much better prepared," Rinard said of the students. "Any time you can provide them with a visual situation, it locks it into the brain. When it does happen, they are much quicker to pull it up and put it into their thought process."

The simulator was the brainchild of two University of Florida anesthesiologists who licensed the technology to Medical Education Technologies in the mid 1990s. The company evolved from L3 Communications, a former division of Loral Corp., which had a site in Sarasota building flight simulators.

Oberndorf, a former Loral executive and military veteran, now leads a private company that has more than 100 employees and revenues this year of more than $21-million.

He said most people can't imagine flying on a plane piloted by someone who hadn't trained on a simulator, and that same perspective is now being brought to the medical world. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the company immediately began adapting Stan to a world in which medical personnel would have to respond to injuries most never thought they'd see.

[Last modified January 2, 2004, 02:01:08]

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