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Like a surgeon

UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences’ Dr. Mark Jensen wrote the book, literally, on teaching surgery to new physicians

Dr. Mark Jensen
Dr. Mark O. Jensen teaches a human anatomy class to high school students at the UND Medical Education Center at the VA Medical in Fargo. Jensen, who is the lead author of a new textbook on surgery published this month, started piecing the book together 15 years ago because there wasn’t a useful guide on teaching surgery to residents at his clinical practice in Fargo.

“You wouldn’t want to get on a commercial jet whose pilots hadn’t gone through various training scenarios and been through simulations. Why would it be any different for surgeons?”

Dr. Mark Jensen book
Dr. Mark Jensen’s labor of love, 15 years in the making

So asked UND’s Dr. Mark Jensen matter-of-factly in a question that almost answers itself: “Simulation in surgery is coming on strong—it’s expanding rapidly, of course. But really the only high-fidelity simulator for surgery is still the human body.”

Scanning the market for years to find a textbook that could assist him in teaching surgical residents at his clinical practice in Fargo, Jensen, a professor of surgery with the UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences (SMHS)  since 1993, eventually just gave up looking—and wrote one himself.

According to Jensen, as he and his colleagues—including former department chair Dr. David Antonenko—gained more experience teaching the School’s general surgery course, and the market still failed to offer surgeons a useful guide, the idea of pitching a textbook to publishers became not only increasingly plausible, but necessary.

“I started this book 15 years ago,” said Jensen, who began teaching a surgical anatomy course for the SMHS in 1995. “I started dictating and writing down what we were teaching residents and edited the course based on what the residents were telling us worked or didn’t.”

Surgical revision

The result of Jensen’s labor of love is Surgical Anatomy for Mastery of Open Operations: A Multimedia Curriculum for Training Surgery Residents. Published by Wolters Kluwer earlier this month, the textbook is 10 chapters long and contains detailed instructions and advice for performing more than 75 different operations.

Speaking to the need for such a resource internationally, Jensen said, is the fact that Wolters Kluwer is translating the book into 30 different languages. “They really looked for another source like this, but couldn’t find one,” the teacher-surgeon added. “To dedicate resources like that to this project—they’re anticipating that this will have appeal internationally as well, so it looks like UND is going to get on the map here.”

Dr. Mark Jensen
Dr. Mark O. Jensen teaches human anatomy to high school students at the UND Medical Education Center at the VA Medical in Fargo.

And with good reason: this isn’t your average medical student anatomy textbook, Jensen admitted.

It’s a training curriculum for surgery residents that “fills an important niche in education of surgeons in training and in practice,” as Associate Executive Director of the American Board of Surgery, Dr. Mark A. Malangoni, put it in the book’s foreword, “It is a ‘go to’ reference for open operations, both common and uncommon.”

Most comprehensive

Assuming a more modest pose, Jensen was concerned only with teaching what he felt needed to be taught.

“You have to modify your operative strategy based on what each particular patient needs,” he explained. “The strategy you use on a patient’s leg, for example, changes depending on if the problem in question is a result of a tumor or a traumatic event or a vascular problem. How you address that is all strategy, and there’s no simulator for that.”

The book’s contributing surgeons were all SMHS faculty members: Drs. Cornelius Dyke, Linda B. Lindquist, Kurt D. Lindquist, Denise M. Rondeau,  Robert P. Sticca and Andrew Terrell. Furthermore, several reviewing surgeons listed in the book are also SMHS faculty, including, Drs. Robert J. Bates, Michael S. Bouton, Jason M. Erpelding, John W. Jones, Jr., Jay M. MacGregor, Michael Traynor and Thomas Wambach.

“There are medical schools now with no cadaver-based anatomy—it’s all on a screen,” Jensen concluded. “For some folks that might be perfectly fine, but we have students entering surgical residencies who need a much better foundation for their profession. So what we’ve done at UND—and there’s no other program like this in the United States—is build the best surgical anatomy program in the country, the most comprehensive. That’s one thing the taxpayers in North Dakota can be proud of.”

Article by Brian James Schill, UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences