Since its inception in 2008, the Vanderbilt Cardiac Surgery Simulation program has become an integral part of the residency training experience and is used to teach the fundamentals of cardiac and thoracic surgery in a simulated environment. Training in specific, complex procedures are also taught and practiced in a deliberate and distributed method. The level of complexity of the procedures increases as the residents level of experience advances accordingly.

The Cardiac Simulation Laboratory is located in Medical Center North and is available for residents 24/7. Cardiac Boot Camp occurs during the first month of residency. Sessions are set up at ad hoc intervals throughout the year to practice advanced surgical techniques and for training specific components of cardiac operations.

Several different low and high fidelity models are used and include: a static porcine heart, synthetic microvascular trainers, a carve-out OpCAB trainer, a perfusion/ECMO simulator, and a high fidelity beating heart porcine simulator. Most components of cardiac operations can be performed in a controlled environment under very realistic conditions. Each session also allows for training in adverse events. The VUMC Cardiac Perfusion School coexists with the simulation program and is very involved with these simulation efforts.

The simulation lab is also equipped with a dedicated thoracic task trainer that is used for instruction and practice of pulmonary procedures, both open and minimally invasive. Pulmonary resections are performed upon perfused porcine lungs, again in a realistic environment.

The Vanderbilt University Medical Center cadaver laboratory has become a key integral part of resident education. Specific procedures (sternotomy, mammary artery dissection, cardiac & thoracic anatomic dissection with resection, esophageal procedures) are taught in a controlled environment using real anatomic structures. The cadaver lab is co-located with the simulation lab.

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The Center for Experiential Learning and Assessment (CELA) houses a MIMIC robotics trainer. The device is used for training and practicing of thoracic and abdominal procedures relevant to Thoracic Surgery. The MIMIC simulator provides the opportunity for residents and faculty to practice independently or together as a lead-in for use in the operating room. CELA located adjacent to VUMC is accessible by all residents and faculty throughout the week and weekends.