Top doctors gather in Valley for hi-tech training

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

MESA, Ariz. -- Longtime Valley residents will remember that it was not so long ago there was a hospital right in the heart of downtown Mesa.

And while Mesa Lutheran closed seven years ago, it is still in the business of saving lives.

And this past week, it was in the business of saving two lives at once, as top doctors from around the world gathered to study the best practices in maternal fetal medicine.

"We have delivery, we have a NICU team here for the baby,” announces Dr. Kelly Gibson, a high risk pregnancy doctor who practices in Cleveland. But this past week she was in the Valley, performing, among other things, and emergency C-Section, with a mother in full code.

“So, luckily, maternal codes are rare events, so it is not something we encounter very frequently. But when we do, it is an emergency, so practicing here allows us to have the skills when we encounter the situation,” says Gibson. The key word, she says, is practice.

Gibson is taking a part in a medical conference hosted by Banner Health at its simulation education center. ”We call it training without consequences,” says center director Dr. Mark Smith.

Every patient inside the former Mesa Lutheran Hospital is a medical mannequin, but every scenario to which doctors must react, is very real.

“We took the most difficult scenarios that are out there: moms who have cardiac disease, moms who have diabetic ketoacidosis, moms who have severe hypertension, and eclampsia, amniotic fluid embolism,” says Dr. Michael Foley, Chairman of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Banner Good Samaritan.

He is the man behind this unprecedented gathering of top doctors, “So what Banner is looking at doing is making a major impact in a really important way in favor of women's health,” he tells us.

And it brought together hundreds of the world's most highly trained OB/GYNS, according to Dr. Daniel O’Keefe, vice-president of the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine. “What we do is a four-year residency in obstetrics and gynecology. And then we do three  extra years in nothing but taking care of high-risk pregnancies, doing research and education.”

Despite their extensive training, Dr. O’Keefe says the learning never stops. “The conditions we are looking at don't happen a lot, so if you don't continue to practice them and keep your skills up, when they do happen, you won't be as good as you should be.”

That is why in the simulation center, every scenario can be replayed, again and again, “It is just like muscle memory, just doing it over and over and over again. It makes you better at it when it comes along,” Dr. O’Keefe explains.

Center Director Dr. Mark Smith says that is critical, because with every decision, two lives hang in the balance. “That is what we talk about in obstetrics. We really have two complicated patients we have to care for. And both of them equally important.”

For these patients, the training is consequence-free. But Dr. Foley says the consequences outside of here are immense. Dr. Foley tells us, “And what we are really trying to do is hit right between the eyes, the increasing maternal mortality rate that has been going up in the country.

This is the first time so many of the most skilled OB/GYNs have gathered in one spot for such an intensive training program. It was all made possible by that simulation center in Mesa. Besides the doctors there to learn, Banner hosted instructors from major medical schools and teaching hospitals around the country.