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New Tech Gives Audiology Students Front Seats to Learning

February 16, 2022
A hybrid approach to learning that includes exposure to practical experience in addition to traditional textbook learning is important, especially in the medical field. When COVID-19 first shut down and then delayed surgeries, medical students had a challenging time finding a way to get that more tactile experience.

On January 28, GBMC, in partnership with the SurgCenter of Northern Baltimore in Hunt Valley, offered Towson University audiology doctoral students a chance to sit in on a cochlear implant surgery—from their couches.

Eighty students and faculty tuned in via Avail technology to watch Chair of the Department of Otolaryngology at GBMC, Brian Kaplan, MD, perform a cochlear implant surgery. Prior to the pandemic, the operating room (OR) could only accommodate one or two participants in-person for observation, so this new technology opened the opportunity to a wider audience of students, giving them a chance to experience a surgery in real-time and ask questions.

According to Regina Presley, Au.D., FAAA, CCC/A, Director of Audiology at the Presbyterian Board of Governors Cochlear Implant Center of Excellence at GBMC, “The students were able to observe the entire surgery, which is a great anatomy lesson as well as a great opportunity to discuss cochlear implants in general. When it’s time to make a referral to their own patients, they can talk to them from a place of knowledge about what the process is because they understand the technology.”

Only about 5-7% of patients who could benefit from cochlear implant technology actually pursue the surgery, in part because, as a relatively new surgical option, there is a lack of awareness about its benefits among clinicians.

“The purpose of this observation was training and education,” Presley said. “There is a commitment to educate audiologists and ENTs, while increasing awareness of the latest technology and when it’s appropriate to make recommendations.”

The patient, who consented to participate, was completely draped with no identifying features visible, and the Avail technology used to broadcast the observation to students was held on a secure platform to prevent hacking or tampering.

The Cochlear Implant Center at GBMC is a trailblazer in the field and involved internationally with industry innovation and engagement. Utilizing this technology is no exception. Currently, there are fewer than 10 institutions in the United States performing surgeries using Avail for students.

This first operation was a success. In an anonymous post-observation survey, one faculty member said, “This was fantastic. There is nothing I can do in my classroom that would match viewing the surgery. This experience gives my students a level of perspective on cochlear implantation that I cannot give them without an opportunity like this.”

One student commented, “The broadcast was easy to use, and the session ran incredibly well. It was a wonderful and unique opportunity to have the surgeon available for questions in real-time.”

When asked, “On a scale of 1-5 (5 being the best), did you feel the broadcast was educational and an effective learning event,” 94% of participants answered 5, while the other 6% answered 4.

Based on the success of the observation, the hope is to offer similar observations for future audiology students within Towson University’s curriculum, as well as for ENT residents.
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