Nathan Essien tries his hand at using the shoulder arthroscopic simulation models.

Nathan Essien, a UB undergraduate who is interested in medical school, tries his hand at using the shoulder arthroscopic simulation models. Essien is the brother of Idem Essien, Class of 2027, who helped organize the SNMA event.

SNMA Members Receive Hands-On Introduction to Orthopaedic Surgery

By Ellen Goldbaum

Published June 25, 2024

Matthew J. Dipaola; Department of Orthopaedics; Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences; University at Buffalo 2016.
I’ve never seen this kind of a facility at a medical school.
Clinical associate professor of orthopaedics

Underrepresented students at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences had an up-close-and-personal chance to explore the world of orthopaedic surgery during National Shoulder and Elbow Week last month.

UB physicians in the Department of Orthopaedics hosted events during the week of May 13 to raise awareness about the work they do and to raise funds for shoulder and elbow research and education in Buffalo.

It was the first year that Buffalo participated with other cities in the annual national event, sponsored by the American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons Foundation.

“National Shoulder and Elbow Week gave us a great opportunity to showcase what we are doing in orthopedics here in Buffalo,” said Matthew J. DiPaola, MD, clinical associate professor of orthopaedics in the Jacobs School, a physician with UBMD Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine and lead organizer of the events. “The lab we have in the Jacobs School is world class and a beautiful space for teaching the next generation of orthopedic surgeons and I want people to know about it.”

Lou Adebyi, a Jacobs School student, works with a virtual reality headset to learn about shoulder surgery.

Lou Adebyi, a Jacobs School student, works with a virtual reality headset to learn about shoulder surgery.

Showcasing Orthopaedics in Buffalo

On May 17, members of the Student National Medical Association (SNMA), the UB chapter of the nation’s largest medical student group for underrepresented students, headed to the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Center of Excellence in Sports Medicine Skills Lab to watch and try their hands at surgical-simulation techniques for orthopaedics. The lab simulates the arthroscopic operating room using realistic synthetic joint models and advanced computational models in addition to cadaveric specimens. It is located in UB RISE, the Jacobs School’s full-service medical training and surgical simulation center.

The event aimed to raise awareness about the specialty of orthopaedics and shoulder and elbow surgery for underrepresented medical students in the Jacobs School to enhance diversity in the specialty. At the same time, DiPaola and colleagues from the Department of Orthopaedics and UBMD Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine were clearly enjoying themselves.

“This place is magic! It’s like Santa’s workshop,” DiPaola said while watching one of the demonstrations. “Every time I come here I feel a sense of joy.” He noted that when he was training, a place like the simulation center, where trainees can get a sense of the physicality of the specialty in a training environment, just didn’t exist.

“This event is meant to showcase to these students what it means to learn about orthopedics and the very hands-on nature of what we do,” DiPaola said. “This place is like our practice field. While there is a lot of non-operative care in orthopaedics, there is a huge technical, manual component to what we do. The laboratory space at the Jacobs School allows us to provide best-in-class technology and simulation methods for our trainees. It is truly special.”

The lab accommodates all levels of trainees, from students to residents to attending physicians.

DiPaola noted the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons in Chicago is the only place he is aware of that has a similar facility of this scale and sophistication that is not corporately owned, but rather a national organization dedicated to serving a national audience.

“I’ve never seen this kind of a facility at a medical school,” he said.

Moriah Martindale, a second-year medical student, said she likes orthopaedics because she likes using her hands. She said orthopaedics appeals to her because she likes the ability to get people back to full mobility. 

Susan M. Daoust, MD, teaches fracture fixation to Sophia Puertas, Class of 2026, using bone models.

Susan M. Daoust, MD, an orthopedic surgeon with UBMD Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, teaches fracture fixation to Sophia Puertas, Class of 2026, using bone models.

Carpentry and Legos

“It’s a little like carpentry,” noted Idem Essien, a first-year medical student, who mentioned that he often helped his father fix things around the house.

“Orthopaedics is like building Legos,” said Susan M. Daoust, MD, assosciate professor of orthopaedics at the Jacobs School and a foot and ankle surgery specialist at UBMD Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, a quip that made Aaliya Williams, a first-year medical student and a fan of Legos, smile.

Essien was enthused about how many SNMA members were clearly interested in orthopaedics.

"With underrepresented minorities in medicine making up less than 10% of the orthopaedic surgery workforce and women accounting for approximately 6% of practicing orthopaedic surgeons, events like this are crucial,” he said. He cited data showing that racial and gender concordance between patients and their providers can lead to better outcomes.

“SNMA is dedicated to improving representation within all specialties and we find that early exposure and mentorship are vital factors in guiding prospective students during the process of choosing a specialty,” said Essien.

The Department of Orthopaedics at UB includes a brilliant team of physicians dedicated to serving greater Buffalo within the hospital and the community,” he continued. “With an emphasis on academic advancement, the faculty here serve not only as clinicians but also as devoted researchers who are passionate about making progress within their respective subspecialties.

“As students here at the Jacobs School of Medicine, we value the mentorship and meaningful connections that we can build with faculty through shadowing, research and community engagement,” he said.

“I hope that this event fuels curiosity in our members to continue exploring the possibility of a future in orthopaedic surgery.”