40 Chargers Shadow Dr. Richard Fansler Over 7 Months

by: Charity Chen '18 and Lisa Peck, Upper School Science Teacher
From September to April, Shorecrest’s Introduction to Medical Science & Anatomy classes were able to observe Dr. Richard Fansler, a general and vascular surgeon, at Largo Medical Center.
Each Wednesday, Dr. Fansler invited two students to observe him for the day. This was an amazing experience, which began with getting in scrubs and listening to Dr. Fansler explain his surgery cases for that day. Students observed him removing diverticulitis (diseased colon), removing colon cancer, performing a mastectomy, installing a stent in the carotid artery, and even moving the organs to prepare for anterior spinal surgery, depending on the day they shadowed.
In addition to having Dr. Fansler point out various organs and explain how the surgeries work, students had the opportunity to talk with his medical school residents and learn about medical school rotations. They also walked with Dr. Fansler as he completed his rounds, checking in on patients he had already operated on, getting to see how doctors communicate with patients and demonstrate empathy. 
Through these shadowing experiences, not only did students gain a deeper understanding of anatomy, but they were also able to witness how an operating room works and see how the anesthesiologist, nurses, interns, residents, and the rest of the surgeon's team work together to perform successfully. In addition, the students learned about various surgical techniques and advanced equipment. For example, some students observed Dr. Fansler thread a wire through the external iliac artery in the groin area in order to string a stent into the aorta to prevent it from having an aneurysm, instead of opening the abdominal cavity, which would have been much riskier.
Furthermore, these experiences gave students insight into OR procedures, how the patient must be prepped for surgery, how they mark the sterile field, and how the instruments must all be accounted for at the end. The following day, students discussed their experiences with the class. As more students observed, the classroom conversations became more interesting. Students would ask each other specifics about the surgeries based on their experiences. For example: “Did he use that radiation detector device to find the right lymph node during the breast cancer surgery?” or “Did he show you how to tie suture knots? He is really fast with suturing, obviously, he has been doing that for years.” and “Did he use that cool device to close up the artery after putting in a stent in the artery in the leg?”
Shadowing a surgeon as a high schooler is extremely rare, and the students were very fortunate to have this unique opportunity. Thanks to Dr. Fansler and Mrs. Peck who made these experiences possible, and to all the medical staff for being so gracious and sharing their knowledge with the class. Most of us knew we wanted to become doctors, but now you have inspired many of us to pursue a career in surgery.

Mrs. Peck's students extend a tremendous THANK YOU to Dr. Fansler, and think the best way they can do so is to share some of what they have learned:

Comments from Jack Ledford ‘18:
"I had the opportunity to observe Dr. Richard Fansler, a well known vascular surgeon at Largo Medical Hospital. He has gained over 25 years of experience in vascular and general surgery. He is board certified by the American Board of Surgery. He attended the University of Florida and went to Tulane University for his residency. I got to see one case which would take the whole day. He had to move the major arteries and organs to the side so that the spinal surgeon could get in so that he could work on the patient’s lumbar. I got to look over and see straight through the stomach and see the spine which was a lasting image in my head. He was very talkative during the surgeries and seemed very at ease. His calmness was felt throughout the room and I think that since he was the head surgeon, it calmed everybody down.
When I was there he had to use a machine to listen for blood flow in the veins in a man’s leg to see if another doctor had severed a nerve and killed the leg. Unfortunately, it had and so Dr. Fansler was forced to do a surprise operation in an attempt to save the leg from amputation. The whole experience was very eye opening."

Comments from Jessica 
Jacobs '18:
"I learned so much from watching Dr. Fansler. My favorite part was when we were in the cath lab. It was really cool because he was doing surgery on the patient while she was awake. He kept talking to her throughout the surgery, which helped her stay calm."

Comments from Charity Chen ’18:
“I saw Dr. Fansler remove diverticulitis. Diverticulitis is inflammation of the colon that results when a person has diverticulosis, which is a disease where pockets form in the colon. If the pockets were to rupture, the patient could get an abscess. A camera inserted into the patient's abdominal cavity allowed us to watch the surgery internally. They inflated the abdominal cavity with carbon dioxide gas and put a jelly-like tool on the area of the incision so that Dr. Fansler could reach the colon without letting the air out. After Dr. Fansler cut out the area with diverticulitis, he stretched out the mesentery so that he could reconnect the colon to the rectum.

The second surgery I observed was an abdominal aortic aneurysm. Part of the aorta in the abdominal region was ballooning outward, which results in turbulent flow that could lead to clots. They put in a stent by stringing a wire through the external iliac artery up to the aorta then stringing the stent up. Cat scan and contrast, which is like dye, allowed us to see where the arteries were and helped Dr. Fansler navigate. After putting in the stent, they put in something mesh-like to inflate and make sure the stent would have enough pressure on the walls of the artery.

It was cool to talk with the medical student there about rotating through the different departments of medicine and about medical school. We also got to follow Dr. Fansler when he did his rounds. I would like to thank Dr. Fansler for being so generous with his time and allowing us to shadow him."

Comments from Mitch St. Cin ‘18"
"The first surgery we saw was the laparoscopic removal of the sigmoid colon. The second was a right breast mastectomy. We learned that after the sigmoid colon was removed, saline was put in to check for leaks in the reattached section. The surgery smelt bad, but the experience was worth it. We appreciate this opportunity a lot because the residents kept informing us that they did not have the opportunity we are having in high school right now."

Comments from Julia Giblin '18:
"As a student who has a curiosity in the medical field, observing Dr. Fansler was a complete honor. I got up at 5:30am to drive to Largo Medical Center to meet Dr. Fansler and his assistants at 7:30am. It was my first time visiting a hospital and seeing a surgery. I thought I was going to pass out from the amount of blood, but I did not.
We visited a patient who had a surgery for kidney disease or failure. He briefly talked to us about his life and that we should pursue a career where we can make a difference and save other people's lives. In the surgery room, we watch Dr. Fansler perform a surgery where a vein from the leg is used in the heart. This is called a CABG. Rock music played softly in the background as they did the surgery. 
I want to thank  Dr. Fansler and Lisa Peck for scheduling and arranging these shadows for the students. It was a great opportunity and I learned a lot from my visit."

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Shorecrest Preparatory School is a private, non-sectarian, coeducational, college preparatory day school for students preschool through high school, located in St. Petersburg, Florida.