I admit it. I’m a huge nerd. I love learning about how things work and playing with new gadgets. That’s probably why I’m obsessed with MITIE – the Houston Methodist Institute for Technology, Innovation and Education. Officially, MITIE (the acronym is pronounced mighty) is described as one of the largest and most comprehensive education and research facilities in the world. Unofficially, it’s a playground for nerds like me and practicing medical professionals who want to learn new surgical techniques and research new ideas.
Because I can’t fit all of my love for MITIE into one blog, this is the first of a three-part series on MITIE. We’re kicking it off with a photo tour, followed by a review of a recent MITIE class and how it affects average people like you and me, and wrapping up with a Q&A with Dr. Brian Dunkin, the medical director of MITIE (one of the smartest people I know).
Here we go! Please keep arms and legs inside at all times!
MITIE spans the entire fifth floor of the Houston Methodist Research Institute. Obviously, the lobby is the first stop. You feel smarter as soon as walk in, and there’s a reason why. The designers wanted MITIE learners to feel like they were entering a professional, modern environment as soon as they stepped off the elevators. The entire floor gives you the smart people vibe with the floor to ceiling windows overlooking the Texas Medical Center and the bright wall colors.
From the lobby, we go to the Med Presence Suite. It has three, 72-inch flat screens at the front of the room and three rows of seating for lectures. Monitors come up out of the desks if you need a closer look at what’s on the big screen. Most often the screens are used to observe a live surgery happening in an operating room at Houston Methodist Hospital or a training surgery in a simulated operating room in MITIE. The Med Presence Suite would also be a good place to watch the game. I’ll bring the chips and salsa. #GoTexans
Next stop is MITIE’s newest addition: the hybrid operating room. It contains a robotically guided rotational fluoroscopy machine and an MRI machine. Having both imaging capabilities in a single operating room provides surgeons with better visualization inside the body to help them perform more complex procedures. The majority of the surgeries practiced in this room are to treat vascular issues.
Other days, the hybrid room is home to one of NASA’s space suits. After an Italian astronaut almost drowned in July 2013 due to a leak in his helmet during a spacewalk, NASA set out to find innovative solutions to prevent future space suit malfunctions. They asked researchers at the Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center to perform a fluoroscopic CT scan to better see the components inside the suit and help identify areas of concern. For more about the NASA and Houston Methodist collaboration, you can read this story or watch this video.
Next up, the Procedural Skills Lab, or PSL if you’re in the know. Think of the PSL as a massive room with multiple mini operating rooms inside. Each of the stations has a monitor connected to a camera at a teaching station. This allows a learner to stand across the room at another practice station and still observe what the teaching surgeon is doing. The PSL is used for surgeons to practice performing an operation, mastering a new surgical technique, and learning how to use new equipment safely on various types of anatomical and inanimate models. To simulate an actual operating room, the students will wear protective equipment, such as hairnets, masks, gowns and gloves. The PSL is one of the most important rooms in MITIE. Why? Because you want your surgeon to know the latest and greatest techniques, but you don’t want them to practice on you. At least, I don’t.
From the PSL, we walk down the hall to the private operating rooms. The first one is a CT operating room. It’s based on the same concept as the hybrid operating room, but this imaging type is ideal for orthopedic surgeries because bones show up better on CT scans.
Did you notice that several training rooms in MITIE have imaging capabilities? We have several imaging modalities available in MITIE because many Houston Methodist researchers are focused on improving visualizations inside the body to make surgeries safer and less invasive.
A few of these private operating rooms do not have imaging capabilities so that MITIE can have more flexibility in the type of work done in these rooms. For example, researchers can test a new product or surgical technique here in preparation for sending it to the FDA or other organizations for approval.
We can also set up the Da Vinci robot system in one of these private operating rooms. In this picture, the Da Vinci is set up for a physician to learn how to safely operate with it. We have three Da Vinci robot systems, and they’re super cool (if you can pretend that you’re not being operated on by a huge spider robot).
Across the hall from these operating rooms are microsurgery training rooms. Microsurgery is commonly used to reattach severed nerves and blood vessels. Microscopes are needed for these procedures to ensure that the cells in the nerve ending or blood vessel are lined up properly.
Our next stop is a set of rooms that serve as a virtual hospital. Much like a flight simulator for training pilots, the virtual hospital is designed to put learners in a real environment to help them learn. The simulation rooms include typical equipment seen in a hospital or triage room. For training here, we have two SimMan patient simulators named Oscar and Mayer. A tech in a connecting room can control Oscar and Mayer to make them breathe, talk, laugh, cry, go into cardiac arrest, etc. The boys will even react when a trainee gives them medicine based on the scenario they have been programmed to run.
At the end of the hall are our partial task rooms. This long room can be divided into several rooms for smaller courses. In this picture, we have airway models set up for a course on intubation.
Last stop – the conference rooms. Not super exciting because of everything we’ve just seen, but they are used for meetings and as staging areas for courses. Most of the walls in these rooms are covered with whiteboard for drawing illustrations or other creative things during meetings. In case you didn’t know, you can also use dry-erase markers on the floor-to-ceiling windows in these rooms. The marks will wipe off with an eraser for a whiteboard. In case you’re wondering, yes, I’ve drawn on almost every window in my house since learning this.
That’s it! Thanks for joining us on this tour of the Houston Methodist Institute for Technology, Innovation & Education. MITIE is a great place to learn and discover new things.