FOR RELEASE: Dec. 20, 2006

GALVESTON, Texas ? When Houston surgeon Charles H. McCollum was in residency, his training involved long hours in the operating room observing procedures and learning by doing under the guidance of his professors. Today, surgical residents continue to train in the operating room, but with shorter work hours and evolving technologies, new opportunities to train physicians and improve patient safety continue to appear in teaching hospitals. Now, thanks to a generous gift from McCollum, the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston can take the first steps to plan the Charles H. McCollum, M.D., Surgical Simulation Laboratory.

Since 2002, UTMB has been using computer-controlled mannequins for training in anesthesiology. These “patients” have a pulse, their eyes dilate and they react to drugs. They breathe, their arms move, and students and faculty can develop their skills with them before they enter the operating room. And for more than 30 years, UTMB’s standardized patient program has used actors to help train medical students to interact with and correctly diagnose patients.

“UTMB has a long history as a leader in using simulation to train both students and physicians before they encounter the patient, and recent studies have correlated simulator achievements to surgical success,” said Dr. Courtney Townsend, John Woods Distinguished Chair of the UTMB Department of Surgery. “Dr. McCollum’s great foresight will allow us to lay the groundwork to create a lab here that will allow our students, residents and faculty to hone their skills and learn more about simulation and how it translates into the operating room.”

Townsend said the lab would contain a variety of the surgical patient simulators and would be available to students, residents in training and faculty members seeking to practice new surgical techniques. The simulators would be used to practice such procedures as ultrasound in trauma care, minimally invasive surgeries and needle-based procedures.

Townsend will visit other surgical simulation labs around the world to research the most appropriate technologies to equip the lab at UTMB.

“We want to invest this money wisely,” he said.

Born in Fort Worth, McCollum received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin in 1956 and earned his medical degree from UTMB in 1959. While in medical school, he served as president of the medical fraternity Alpha Kappa Kappa and was awarded membership in the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society. He continued his graduate medical education doing his internship and a year of internal medicine training at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania from 1959 to 1961, and completed a five-year residency in general and thoracic surgery in 1966 at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. While performing his graduate medical training, he also served as a captain of the U.S. Army Reserve from 1961 to 1969.

After completing his residency training, McCollum joined the faculty at Baylor College of Medicine. Today he serves as a professor of surgery at the college and is a clinical professor at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center Department of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery. He was a recipient of the UTMB Ashbel Smith Distinguished Alumnus award in 1998. In his nearly four decades as a surgeon in Houston, McCollum has earned a reputation for his commitment to superior, patient-centered care and preparing the next generation of surgeons to meet the highest standards of excellence. This commitment led to his generous gift.

“Having been in surgical education for so long, I wanted to do something that would be helpful and useful to the surgical training program at UTMB,” he said. “Dr. Truman Blocker, the first president at UTMB, was my senior advisor while I was a student there. He was very instrumental in my interning at the University of Pennsylvania which was one of the many highlights of my medical training. Dr. Blocker’s influence helped me recognize the value and the need for residents to develop their skills.”

McCollum noted that after the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education restricted residency training hours to 80 hours a week, surgical residents received fewer hours of hands-on training ? the kind of training he found valuable. He also noted that as simulation technology continues to improve, new training techniques would evolve.

“I’m excited about the possibilities as this technology continues to improve,” McCollum said. “This is a great benefit for residents, faculty and students. It’s not only for preparation for the first time in the operating room, it will be used to hone skills and practice new surgeries.”

Townsend likened the simulation process to airline pilot training.

“Pilots in training don’t just get in the cockpit and take off the first time they fly. They train with simulation first,” he said. “That’s what we will be doing with this new lab. We are very grateful for Dr. McCollum’s generosity.”

The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston
Public Affairs Office
301 University Boulevard, Suite 3.102
Galveston, Texas 77555-0144