Division Leadership Create New Perfusion School at University of Utah
Aug 14, 2020 12:00 AM
The academic mission of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery places a high value on educating the next generation of professionals. Several years ago, a decision was made to incorporate perfusionists into the Division and the School of Medicine, recognizing the obviously essential nature of their role. In doing that, the Division became acutely aware of a gap in the University of Utah School of Medicine offerings: there was no training program in perfusion. In fact, there was no formal education opportunities in perfusion anywhere in the state of Utah, and very few in the Western United States. With a significant number – upwards of 33% - of current perfusionists set to retire within the next decade, the profession, which is already experiencing a shortage, was looking at a potentially dire situation. Given the clear need, along with the Division’s dedication to teaching and learning, the idea to begin a perfusion school was born.
The Cardiovascular Perfusion (CVP) program is a 24-month (6 semester) graduate program that provides the formal training, knowledge, and skills that will support students pursuing careers as licensed cardiovascular perfusionists. Despite a pressured timeline, approval was given to begin just a year and a half after initially proposing the program. Impressively, the accrediting bodies that provided preliminary reviews noted that the program development was “the best [they] had ever seen.” This review enabled the school to open quickly, and it will be used during the initial accreditation process which is planned for July 2021.
Applications were accepted in December 2019. As with everything in the world right now, the School had to adjust its plans due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The competitive applicants completed interviews via conference call. Kirk Bingham, Perfusionist and Director of the CVP program, notes that this was “definitely an interesting process,” but certainly one that will remain memorable as the program’s inaugural year.
Four incredible students, experienced in medical settings, and coming from an array of backgrounds, were accepted into the program. Classes began on May 5, 2020. The students are taking classes within both the CVP and Physician Assistant (PA) programs. The curriculum includes anatomy, physiology, and pharmacology through the PA program, as well as courses on perfusion science, hospital environments, hemodynamic monitoring, and participating in a perfusion lab through the CVP program. Despite having their hands full with multiple classes, they are excelling in all of their training so far. Preparations for fall semester have begun and the faculty and staff of the CVP program are excited and hopeful that they will finally be able to meet these students in person!
The creation of the CVP program and its high-quality curriculum was only possible because of the collaboration and support of so many individuals, namely Dr. Craig Selzman, Heather Clark, and Lauren Budinger, as well as all of the surgeons, perfusionists, and staff in the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery.
While it is absolutely the case that the creation of the Cardiovascular Perfusion program was a collaborative effort, Dr. Doug Smego noted that Kirk was the driving force. “Without [Kirk’s] Herculean effort, time, and passion,” Dr. Smego said, “this never would have happened. Everyone worked incredibly hard to bring this school together, but Kirk worked a thousand times harder. He is the heart and soul of how it came to be.”
The next application cycle will begin in October 2020, with interviews for the second class coming in February 2021.
CVP Program Faculty and StaffDirector: Kirk Bingham
Medical Director: Dr. Doug Smego
Program Advisor: Lauren Budinger
Program Administrator: Shawnda Gillespie
Perfusion Staff and Adjunct Instructors: Chris Blaylock, Jake Wimmer, Jessica Russ, Sam Harman, Brandon Tomecek, Paul Matlin (VA), and Rob Bowers (PCH)