Physician Assistant student gets hands-on experience


There’s little doubt that hands-on learning is an effective way to train students. Just ask Colleen Schmittgens who recently dissected a pig with Dr. Matthew Bosner, cardiologist at Ste. Genevieve County Memorial Hospital (SGCMH).
“This is awesome,” Colleen said. “It’s something you don’t get to do in a big hospital. I’ve never had a set of organs to myself. It’s not every day you get a personal lesson like this with a cardiologist.”
Dr. Bosner methodically walked Collen through the pig specimen, which was complete with lungs, trachea, aorta, liver, and heart. It just so happens that, despite our differences, many of the pig’s biological systems are very similar to our own.
“They have a number of anatomic and physiologic similarities to humans,” said Dr. Bosner. “A pig heart and a human heart are similar in their size, structure, and function. Like a human heart, the pig heart has two atriums and two ventricles. It also has four valves and an aorta. Pigs develop atherosclerosis - artery plaque buildup - in the same way that humans do, and they react similarly to myocardial infarction, the classic heart attack. Students are able to gain a greater understanding of the human heart through understanding a pig’s heart.”
Dr. Bosner reviewed the pig’s anatomy and discussed the physiology with her. For example, he explained to her that the pig specimen did not have any signs of thickening or irregularity in the blood vessels, which would have been an indication of arteriosclerosis, and there was no evidence of white scar tissue, which would indicate a heart attack.
Dr. Bosner’s medical assistant, Jenn Kayser, joked that the pig was not a smoker, as evidenced by the pink (not black) lungs.
“Being able to see what’s on the inside definitely helps to put things in perspective,” said Colleen.
Dr. Bosner said it’s important, if not imperative, to know your anatomy.
“Then you can better visualize and understand where the problem is, which makes for better clinical decisions,” he said.
Colleen was the second PA (physician assistant) student that Dr. Jonathon Bird has mentored from UMKC Physicians Assistants School. PA’s are similar in scope to the Nurse Practitioner that we’re familiar with at SGCMH.
“The medical director at UMKC, Dr Beverly Graves, was a classmate of mine in medical school, so she asked me to become a preceptor for some of the students,” said Dr. Bird. “They come for four weeks at a time and experience primary care in a rural community. I usually take two or three students a year. This is similar to what I’ve done in the past taking University of Missouri med students each summer.”
While here, Dr. Bird also has his students rotate a day or two with Dr. Bosner, Mary Crecelius in women’s care and emergency room physicians.

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