Jenny Vanderpool and her boyfriend Patrick Hoare made a Saturday date out of cutting into and stitching pigs’ feet inside a pungent-smelling Augustana College biology lab.
It was a first-time activity for both of them. Vanderpool said she’s studying biology on the Rock Island campus and wants to be a physician’s assistant one day, so stitching is something she’ll get used to.
But her boyfriend? Not so much. He’s an accounting major at Northern Illinois University.
“I’m afraid of ripping the skin open and pulling too hard on it,” Hoare said of a needle-and-thread procedure that’s usually taught to medical schools students by the end of their second year.
“I’m having fun with it,” he added.
About 100 students attended Saturday’s presentation, and there were no reports of anyone poking their fingers with the curved needles at the end of the sutures. Gamma Sigma, which is Augustana’s chapter of Beta Beta Beta, a national biological honor society, organized the activity.
At least six area doctors spent an hour-and-a-half teaching students how to suture cuts.
Dr. Rhonda Sowards, an emergency room physician with Trinity Regional Health System and an Augustana graduate, had more reason to participate.
“I’m sparking their interest in medical procedures and what the field of medicine has to offer,” she said.
Growing up on a farm near Taylor Ridge, Ill., Sowards originally wanted to be a veterinarian before deciding to dedicate her life to helping people. “I wanted my patients to be able to speak to me,” she said.
Given the nature of her work, she prefers to take her time shutting a wound with needle and thread.
“I could have eight or 10 patients at one time,” she said. “Spending 30 minutes repairing a laceration is very relaxing in an emergency room.”
Dr. Alexander Pinc, the medical director of emergency services at Mercy Medical Center in Clinton, taught the students how to tie square knots. He began his demonstration with a thick nylon cord before moving to the string-like sutures.
“The hardest thing is to realize that what you’re doing is on such a small scale,” he told the students. “Begin with something the size of a shoelace to see what you’re doing. Learn how to tie knots with that. Knots are critical to give you the strength to stay there a number of days till the tissue is strong enough to hold itself together.”
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Pinc once had to suture his 7-year-old daughter’s knee during a hiking trip. He said all you need in a survival kit is nylon, some antiseptic liquid and a fishing hook and you can suture by hand if you can’t get the patient to a hospital.
Dr. Nathan Fierce, a doctor of osteopathic medicine with Trinity Surgical Partners in Bettendorf, said the hardest part about suturing for him is “getting your hands to move the way you want them to move.”
Also an Augustana graduate, Fierce said he decided to become a doctor in high school, after his grandfather underwent surgery.
Gamma Sigma chapter president Nick Petre, a biochemistry, physics and pre-med major from Moline, said the purpose of the event is to introduce students to the medical field and connect them with area physicians.
“It might help further their pursuit of medicine,” he said.
Petre said he always knew that he wanted to be a doctor, which is what both of his parents are.
On the other hand, Eric Pease, a neuroscience and pre-med major from Sterling, Ill., who also helped coordinate the event, said he’s the first one in his family with a desire to be a doctor.
“We’ll see how it goes,” he added.