Med Student Wows Surgeon with Suction Technique

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DENVER, CO – Medical student James Taverny turned heads in the OR when he made history with perfect suction technique during an open cholecystectomy last Friday.

“It wasn’t until halfway through the surgery that I realized my surgical field hadn’t been filled with blood once during the operation,” says attending surgeon William Pescoe, “but perhaps more impressively, I hadn’t noticed the suction getting in my way, either. Once I realized what was happening, I had to stop and catch my breath. It was really emotional.”

Echoing this sentiment was PGY11 resident Paul Griffen. “I’m a pretty bitter and impatient person,” he says, “so normally I’m yanking the suction away from the med student the moment I see any bleeding, even if they are in the process of moving towards it. But there was no bleeding. I didn’t feel impatient. For the first time in a long time, I felt at peace.”

Taverny was on his third week of his surgical rotation at University of Colorado Hospital when the event occurred. He had been interested in going into a surgical field, so decided that he was going to bring his “A game” to this rotation. Despite this, he was nothing but humble during our interview with him.

“I was just doing what I normally do during these surgeries,” he says, “With my left hand, I was holding a retractor as perfectly still as possible with just enough but not too much tension while ignoring the screaming pain in my muscles begging to relax, and with my right hand, I was operating the suction. When Dr. Pescoe stopped the surgery, breaking sterile field so that he could hug me, my left fingers had just started to go numb. I was happy for the break, and I’m glad I was doing a good job, but I wouldn’t say it was anything special.”

The surgeons, however, couldn’t disagree more.

“I really wish there could be someway to keep him from moving forward into his career,” says Pescoe, “because we are never going to find another medical student like him. He has a true gift.”

The experience had a considerable impact on Griffen as well, “It was such a transcendental experience, and it made me wonder what I was trying to accomplish with continuing my education for so long. So I decided to get off the academic path and just got a job with a group of holistic surgeons up in Boulder. I’m going to spend the rest of my days not just asking what needs to get removed, but what needs to get put back in its place.”

As for Taverny, his surgical rotation has showed him what he doesn’t want to do with his life. “Everyone is saying I made history, but I just want to go home every day at a reasonable hour. Protégé or not, lifestyle is what’s most important to me.” At this juncture, Taverny is thinking about pursuing a career in anesthesia.

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