This is Part Two in our conversation with Chad Jackson. Read Part One.
“Physicians are never going to play with a grape,” Eric Edell, MD, FCCP, told him.
It seemed like a simple solution to a complex problem: How do you train physicians to use a needle to take lymph node samples without breaking thousands-of-dollars worth of instruments during practice rounds or forcing test patients to serve as human pincushions? Jackson came up with a solution prompted by that idea from Dr. Edell, that made it possible for doctor to practice on a model that did not feel pain, while using grapes as a substitute for human tissue. To the surprise of many it worked—and the EFS (also known as Eric Edell’s Fruit Stand) task trainer simulator was created, which helped doctors place a needle prior to actually attempting a similar maneuver with a patient.
What’s the best way to learn something? That might be the right question. How do you make something memorable or engaging given the limited time and attention space of your audience? For Jackson, this has proven to be one of the most difficult problems to solve in this part of his career, but his experience with Dr. Edell proved to be a breakthrough of sorts.
Doctors would test their skills on game-like simulators to refine their skills or memorize best practices for treating certain diseases. While the success was also his, Jackson credits the clinicians he works next to with inspiring him to create new and different GAMEs, which started to show up at CHEST in 2011.
“I sketched out the concept on a scrap of paper, which we still have, and wrote up some questions,” William Kelly, MD, FCCP, and Chad’s colleague for the past five years says. ”The idea was that the player could answer progressively difficult questions for ever more fabulous prizes but risk it all if wrong. Much like an incentive spirometer device, a ball would go up with each correct answer (and crash down if the player lost). Chad magically turned this sketch into a gigantic, visually appealing device with lights, audio, and a novel motor mechanism. In short, the players and audience loved it, learned something, and had a lot of fun.”
Dr. Kelly has been colleague of Chad’s for the past five years. Fun is how Jackson gets through the hours of designing, creating, and optimizing. His “eyes light up” when discussing a fresh idea, according to Kelly. And they have big plans for creating new games for CHEST 2017—with vastly more advanced tools than in the past including 3D printing. Jackson has seven 3D printers at home, which are constantly in use to turn a new idea into reality or to optimize an existing training tool.
How will 3D printing affect the future? (According to Chad)
“I think fundamentally 3D printing is going to change everything in our world. How many people daydream? Now, they can rapidly create a prototype of their idea. Giving kids the opportunity to create things is going to change our perspective. We do not know how things are going to change instruments. Easy-to-produce modern CAD ) Computer-aided design) can design ergonomic tools. I think it’s huge. There are so many things that we have done here at CHEST already, including something as practical as replacing a faulty door handle.”
“I don’t have time to look in a rearview mirror,” Jackson says. “What are we doing today to help the doctors with their care tomorrow?”
The GAMEs are fun, but a part of the ultimate motivation for Jackson to create comes from perhaps the darkest part of his family’s struggles with cancer. Jackson as mentioned lost his brother to the disease. He was still in his 30s. Watching his brother wither away was “the worst thing I’ve seen in my life,” Jackson says.
So while Jackson might not cure cancer, it does not mean that he doesn’t hope to work with CHEST physicians who can extend the life of a patient so they can spend more time with their family or help assist in the education of a clinician who will help to cure cancer.
“I believe what we are doing at CHEST really matters,” Jackson says, even if it just looks, at first glance, like fun and games.