Opinion

Discovering Harborview | Craig Groshart | Editor's Note

Hear the word "Harborview" and what do you think?

The trauma center for the area's most critical cases. You're right.

Part of the University of Washington medical system. Right again.

The place where the poor and homeless go to see a physician. You're three for three.

It's all that – but it's so much more.

On Jan. 25, I was part of a group that spent the day at Harborview, visiting seven different departments or areas to learn what goes on and see what's new in the world of medicine.

Talk about eye-opening.

I knew Harborview had a busy emergency department, but didn't realize that it handles about 60,000 ER admissions a year. That's an average of 164 a day for you non-math majors.

Harborview also is where you'll find Dr. Benjamin Starnes, who performs non-invasive aortic endovascular grafting – a ground-breaking procedure that surgeons from around the world come here to see.

I also met Hunter Hoffman, Director of the Virtual Reality Research Center

at the UW who, along with his colleagues, Dr. Dave Patterson and

Sam Sharar, MD, found a way to lessen the pain burn patients endure as part of their treatment.

The team developed a virtual reality computer-animated game that lets patients throw snowballs at penguins, snowmen and igloos. The result is that the patients don't feel as much pain as their wounds are dressed or their skin is stretched in therapy. For scientists around the world who doubted that could happen, Hoffman has the MRI scans to prove it.

By the way, the UW's Human Interface Technology Laboratory in Seattle is one of the largest VR research laboratories in the world.

Then there was Dr. Brian Ross, executive director of the Institute for Simulation & Interprofessional Studies. In short, it means physicians – young and old – practice techniques on dummies to keep their skills sharp and effective.

But these aren't the Resusci Annie of CPR days. They are so life-like that their pupils respond to light, they can "talk" to the doctors and their "life-threatening" conditions can be ramped up to challenge even the most skilled physician. Bottom line: if doctors can't show proficiency on the dummies, they can't do the technique on real patients.

And that was only a part of the day.

I left Harborview exhausted from the learning experience, but even more aware of the world-class medicine that is being developed and performed here in our own backyard. I can't wait to learn more.

 

– Craig Groshart, Bellevue Reporter

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