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An Argument for Dedicated Training in 3D Printing for Surgeons: Results of a National Needs Assessment and Call to Action

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3D Printing (3DP) is an additive manufacturing process being applied at the point of care (POC) in hospital systems. Radiologists have played a crucial part in the application of this technology with surgeons considered an ideal clinical partner. The VA Health Care System (VHA) has a growing role with clinically based application of 3DP with a dedicated program office. In 2021, a 3DP fellowship (VS-3DP) was created within the VHA for surgical residents. As part of this educational program, a needs assessment in the form of a national assessment of curriculums centered for 3DP technology at point of care (POC) has been undertaken. After searching the Accreditation Council of Graduate Medical Education website for all approved diagnostic radiology training programs, websites were assessed for 3DP research/curriculums/rotations, presence of a medical 3DP lab, surgical 3DP expertise and 3DP expertise at an associated VHA. One hundred and ninety-six programs were found with only four (2.04%) having a dedicated radiology-based curriculum dedicated to 3DP. A total of 58 (29.6%) affiliated surgery programs had 3DP expertise listed (p < 0.0001). 

VS-3DP is a 12-month exposure as it pertains to 3DP engineering principles, imaging processing/segmentation, application in surgical planning, application of 3DP in Assistive Technology, iterative rapid prototyping and principles of hospital-based manufacturing. Instructional strategies include project management of 3DP surgical applications (simulation and surgical planning), leadership involvement in VA national 3DP program office, dedicated materials (readings, lectures) and apprenticeships (centered in radiology, engineering and clinical practice). Three learners have been enrolled with an expected program-based assessment in July 2022. 

Learning Objectives:

  • Describe challenges and benefits of starting a 3D printing fellowship for residents.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of critical features of medical 3D printing program.
  • Understand the lack of physician-based educational efforts to address this emerging technology and influence organizations to seek increased exposure to this technology for the training of radiologists and surgeons.