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Format: 04/18/2014
Format: 04/18/2014


AGH Open Heart Surgery Observation Program Provides Area High School Students with Unique Healthcare Career Orientation

Friday, April 30th, 2010

Reading about open heart surgery in a textbook is one thing. Experiencing it in person is quite another matter.

Since May 2008, various high school students from Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia have taken advantage of a unique opportunity to observe West Penn Allegheny Health System’s top cardiovascular surgeons in action. Coordinated by the Allegheny General Hospital (AGH) Gerald McGinnis Cardiovascular Institute (CVI), the Open Heart Surgery Observation Program has hosted more than 115 classes and has brought in students and teachers from 47 school districts.

On April 19, CVI marked a significant milestone at Allegheny General Hospital: a student from Bishop Canevin High School became the 1,000th pupil to participate in this program.

According to Pat Wolf, Program Coordinator, CVI, this program is beneficial for students in several ways.

“Students learn why biology, chemistry and physics are such important subjects,” she said. “This experience also makes an indelible impression on some students who are considering a career in medicine. Above all, students see the consequences of smoking and a diet high in fat. We hope these young people use this experience as an impetus to make healthy lifestyle choices.”

During surgery, Ms. Wolf or another staff person from CVI joins the students and their teachers and explains what is happening in the operating room. Students observe an open heart surgery such as a coronary artery bypass or valve replacement. Following surgery, the surgeon will often meet with the students and answer questions.

For Robert Fort, an 18-year-old student from the Aquinas Academy in Gibsonia, Pa., the student observation program has been an eye-opening experience. “I am thinking about becoming a doctor. Through this experience, I learned a lot about all the people who are part of the surgical team,” he said.

Added Daniel Bowman, Athletic Director at Bishop Canevin High School in Pittsburgh, “I had heart valve surgery and was curious to see what takes place behind the scenes. My students were also stimulated by this experience.”

George Magovern, MD, Chair, AGH Department of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, and founder of the Open Heart Surgery Observation Program, said this initiative demonstrates CVI’s commitment to community education.

“Allegheny General is the only hospital in Western Pennsylvania with a functioning observation room above the operating theater,” said Dr. Magovern. “The observation deck provides students with an opportunity to view real-time surgery and will hopefully solidify many students’ interest in becoming a doctor, nurse, physician’s assistant, cardiovascular perfusionist or operating room technician.”

Those interested in the program, can contact Pat Wolf at 412-359-6491.


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