Telling the Hospital Story: Allegheny General Hospital

Doctors at Allegheny General Hospital performing open heart surgery.

Students Observe Open Heart Surgery at Allegheny General Hospital

For young people observing the procedure, it can be heart-stopping, heart-pounding or simply heartening.

For many, it helps them decide whether a career in medicine might suit them.

Since 2009, Allegheny General Hospital has permitted potential future medical students to observe live open heart surgeries performed by its surgeons and their teams. They watch through a nearby observation deck, but are not actually in the operating room and do not distract the physicians or their patients.

AGH is one of the few places in the country that offers students the opportunity to watch surgeons and their teams perform the procedure.

“There’s just nothing in the classroom you can do that equates to this,” said Dr. Colin Syme, honors anatomy and physiology teacher at USC. “For some kids, it’s that ‘Aha!’ moment; it’s for them or not for them.”

The observation program aims to inspire young people to pursue a career in medicine, which is a career worth embarking on, because the incidence of heart disease in the U.S. and many western societies is very high and likely to remain so.

The program started modestly but these days attracts students from 20 different counties in Western Pennsylvania calling for spots on the calendar

“Seeing it (heart surgery) in class, all the diagrams, then seeing it here, it’s so fascinating and so real. It’s a whole new experience,” said Yoshna Venkataraman, who plans to go into nursing. “The impact you have on someone’s life is far greater than you could ever see.”

Since the observation program began, more than 22,000 students have witnessed open heart surgery at Alleghany General Hospital.

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