-- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette -- July 11, 2018 -- 9:00 AM
A Downtown-based surgical training center is opening a third location in San Francisco — its biggest so far — as it expands learning opportunities for doctors outside the hospital.
National Bioskills Laboratories was founded in 2014 by Douglas Hampers and Yeshvant Navalgund, starting with a 15,000-square-foot surgical training center on the Boulevard of the Allies. The company’s second center, 10,000 square feet, is in Dallas and the newest facility in San Francisco fills 25,000 square feet.
The centers offer doctors the opportunity to learn new surgical techniques on cadavers to keep pace with advances in medical technology and devices, Dr. Navalgund said.
“The last thing you want is a physician practicing what they learned 20 years ago,” said Dr. Navalgund, 47, who also runs six pain management clinics in the region.
Each center has an auditorium for lectures about new surgical techniques and hands-on opportunities to practice. Medical device makers provide technicians to guide doctors in the use of their products in the operating room.
Allegheny Health Network, which opened its own 7,400-square-foot surgical training lab at Allegheny General Hospital in 2016, has occasionally used the National Bioskills facility for training doctors in the use of joint replacement implants. Medical implant companies and individual physicians also pay for the sessions.
National Bioskills clients are medical device makers that want to train doctors in the use of products such as spinal devices, artificial joints and surgical robots. Some of the training is accredited for continuing education credits by the Chicago-based Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education.
Continuing medical education, which is required for physicians for licensure, was intended to be an ongoing process for doctors, said Melanie Fisher, assistant dean for continuing medical education at the West Virginia University School of Medicine. She is not involved with National Bioskills.
“The purpose is lifelong learning once they’ve finished training,” Dr. Fisher said. “The technology has exploded and the types of procedures that are available is phenomenal.”
National Bioskills has 23 full- and part-time employees. The company is private and does not release financial results.
“We hated traveling to learn new techniques,” said Dr. Hampers, 48, an orthopedic surgeon who lives in San Francisco. “The idea was to create a bunch of these centers and make it convenient for the physician to go train. The whole idea of the company was to be national.”
Cadavers used in the training sessions are procured from outside contractors accredited by the American Association of Tissue Banks.
The two doctors met during medical residencies at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. At the time — around 2007-2008 — academic medical centers were distancing themselves from teaching arrangements with prescription drug makers and medical device companies to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, Dr. Navalgund said.
As medical centers began shunning such arrangements, Dr. Navalgund said training opportunities for doctors diminished.
Moving the training outside the hospital eliminated the appearance of a conflict of interest created when medical institutions conduct industry-financed training programs, which can suggest endorsement of a certain company or product.
Kris B. Mamula: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1699