Donors' gift adds new dimension to neurological education

When James Cameron set out to make Avatar, he consciously chose to present it in 3D, inviting moviegoers to experience life on planet Pandora as close to “real” as possible.

Similarly, when Robert Spetzler, MD, first proposed adding 3D capabilities to the Goldman Auditorium at Barrow Neurological Institute, he knew the technology would maximize the educational experience for his students, enabling them to feel they were right alongside him as he performed intricate surgical procedures.

As the director of the institute, Spetzler was delighted that longtime philanthropists Karl and Stevie Eller shared his vision and generously gave $750,000 to Barrow Neurological Foundation for the purpose of enhancing the Goldman Auditorium for 3D viewing.

“Our mission to teach the next generation of neurosurgeons has been greatly enhanced by the introduction of high-definition 3D systems into our operating rooms,” says Spetzler.

Just like being there

“It is an honor to support the advancement of medical science and to partner with Barrow to educate young neurosurgeons using 3D technology,” says Karl Eller. “We are proud to be able to assist this world-class institute in providing medical students with this unique experience.”

The new 3D technology permits up to 200 students seated in the Goldman Auditorium to view surgeries with unparalleled authenticity just by putting on a special pair of 3D glasses. They can also listen along as the surgeon describes and explains procedures step-by-step in real time, pausing to answer students’ questions as necessary.

“This is a one-of-kind system,” says Craig Carnell, a Barrow audiovisual specialist who assisted in the installation. “The infrastructure allows us to broadcast to the rest of the world if we want to.” In addition, videos of surgeries can be archived for viewing at a later date, maximizing the educational potential even more.

The installation of the new technology required an electrical overhaul of the Goldman Auditorium, explains Carnell. Cables were upgraded, a 3D silver screen for stereoscopic high-definition imaging replaced the old screen, and a high- tech projection system was installed.

“We settled on the best broadcast equipment in each class and integrated them together,” says Gabe Arnn, multimedia analyst at Barrow, who conducted extensive research to identify the best components to meet Spetzler’s specifications. “We picked three companies and had them work together to suit our purposes.”

“When surgical techniques are presented in two dimensions, like on the pages of a book, we may have difficulty interpreting the subtleties of surgical anatomy,” Dr. Spetzler says. “But when we see the brain in three dimensions (3D), the relationships of the many structures are much more readily appreciated. It is like the difference between seeing a picture of the Grand Canyon and actually hiking through it.”


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