Sculptor Builds Surgical Simulation Model

Morgan Yacoe teaching two students

Sculptor Morgan Yacoe (BFA ’11) is devoted to integrating arts with medicine. In her class “Art and Medicine,” she brings together arts students and medical professionals to work on innovative collaborative projects that deepen students’ understanding of the interconnection of the two disciplines.

“In my mind, I don’t see any boundaries between [the two],” Yacoe says. “At the end of the day, it’s all about improving patient outcome and helping people.”

Now, as she tackles a groundbreaking new project, students from her fall 2016 class are returning to help her develop an advanced microsurgical trainer.

Yacoe is collaborating with Dr. Santosh Kale, assistant professor and associate director of the VCU Department of Surgery, and Peter Pidcoe, professor and assistant chair of the VCU Department of Physical Therapy, in a multidisciplinary project that has received funding through the VCU Quest Commercialization Fund.

The trainer, an animated surgical simulation model that is all torso, gives surgical trainees the opportunity to practice breast reconstruction. The team hopes the trainer will enhance medical practice. Yacoe’s students from the fall 2016 studio course were instrumental in developing the prototype.

The concept has been in development for a couple of years, and this project is the first of its kind. The animated model will have realistic properties and blood flow to simulate a true environment. Prior to this breakthrough, practice surgeries would have to take place on a lab rat or a flimsy table-top model.

“Both sculpture and surgery demand an intimate knowledge of the human anatomy, keen observation and acute, hands-on technical skill,” Yacoe says. “And they are both practiced from a position of empathy.”

Excerpted from the story by Kenan Keranovic for VCUNews. 


December 11, 2017