PITTSBURGH, June 14 One of the world's most advanced simulation centers for medical training is exporting its life-saving expertise to Italy. Thanks to a generous donation from the Renato Fiandaca Foundation, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine are creating a new medical simulation center in Palermo, Italy, at UPMC's transplant facility there.
The new center, to be based at the Istituto Mediterraneo per i Trapianti e Terapie ad Alta Specializzazione (ISMETT), will use high-tech mannequins, curricula developed by expert faculty, and advanced information systems to provide hands-on training to medical professionals with no risk of harming patients.
"Our staff is very excited to have access to this innovative and highly effective educational tool. It will further improve the level of care that we'll be able to provide to our patients," said Bruno Gridelli, M.D., ISMETT's medical and scientific director. "This new center will allow us to transfer UPMC's expertise to other hospitals and universities throughout the Mediterranean basin, while strengthening ISMETT's national and international leadership role."
The center is modeled after the University of Pittsburgh's Peter M. Winter Institute for Simulation, Education and Research (WISER), which opened in Pittsburgh in 1994. One of the leading facilities of its kind, WISER trains more than 10,000 doctors, nurses and other health care professionals from around the world each year.
The simulation center in Palermo, expected to open this fall, is being created with a $325,000 gift (257,000 Euros) from the newly formed Renato Fiandaca Foundation. Directed by Giovanni Fiandaca, a professor of criminal law at the University of Palermo, the foundation is named in honor of the professor's son, who died in a car accident in 2001. His death prompted the family to focus on improving emergency care in Italy. An estimated 320,000 patients in Italy are harmed each year by treatment-related errors that could have been prevented. "The grief for the loss of my son was worsened by the frustrating experience in the emergency room of one of Palermo's main public hospitals," said Professor Fiandaca. "We decided to create the Renato Fiandaca Foundation to promote public awareness of the inadequacy of most emergency rooms in Palermo and elsewhere and to improve the professional skills of physicians and nurses in the field of critical care surgery and medicine."
Using mannequins that can be programmed to exhibit such conditions as cardiac arrests or blocked airways, the new center will provide health care workers with hands-on classes, including emergency response team training and difficult airway management. The center will simulate high-risk surgeries and emergency situations, allowing medical students and veteran health care professionals to improve their skills without any risk to real patients. Curricula are being developed by leading health care experts at the University of Pittsburgh and ISMETT and will be continually updated to reflect the latest advances in the field.
The new center is part of UPMC's expanding footprint in Italy. UPMC recently announced plans to create a $398 million Biomedical Research and Biotechnology Center near Palermo by 2010, in partnership with the Italian government, the region of Sicily and Italy's National Research Council. ISMETT, a partnership with the region of Sicily, opened its transplant center and clinical facility in 2004 and is expected to perform more than 120 transplants of livers, hearts, kidneys and other organs this year.