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UT-Houston Medicine Magazine

SCSC – Now open to train

By Camille Webb

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Now open, the UT Medical School's Surgical and Clinical Skills Center (SCSC) combines technology with innovation to help today's students train to become tomorrow's physicians.

Under the direction of Eric Reichman, Ph.D., M.D., the SCSC officially opened its doors July 20, 2006. In the nearly one year's time since its opening, the SCSC has been teaching medical students with its standardized patient program, helping residents and faculty maintain and enhance their knowledge and skills, and tallying up future ways its resources and technology can be used to teach.

The school's standardized patient program – where trained persons act and pose as patients to test students' clinical skills – was relocated in July 2006 to the 11,400 square-foot SCSC suite in the basement of the Medical School. The program was formerly located in the Houston Medical Center Building on Travis Street.

The new space for the standardized patient program has 14 patient exam rooms, a sophisticated digital audiovisual system, and all the rooms are connected to video control and TV monitoring stations.

"We're using it for first-, second-, and third-year students, but besides being used for just the medical students, several residencies use it as well," Dr. Reichman says, adding that Family Medicine and Internal Medicine residents use the facility regularly.

A standardized patient is a person without a disease, who is trained to simulate an illness and to portray a patient role in a realistic and consistent way. They are used to instruct and assess a medical student's performance of clinical and interpersonal skills. The program hones the students' examination skills and provides transition to real patients. Dr. Reichman notes the standardized patient program is one of the SCSC's alternative ways to teach.

"You can teach students physical exams a lot of different ways, and we use all the ways here at the UT Medical School," he says. "There are lectures, labs, following faculty as preceptors, and practicing on the standardized patient."

The standardized patient program gives students real-world practice in taking a patient's history and completing a physical exam, of which the students are graded on their abilities to successfully complete these tests. Through the center's digital audiovisual system, faculty are able to watch the students in action and critique their encounter with the standardized patient.

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