Gov. Livingston Students Experience "Live from Surgery" Program Funded by Berkeley Heights Education Foundation Partnered With Summit Medical Group

Susan Rembetsy, Gov. Livingston Science Supervisor and Pam Yoss, President of the BHEF are pictured with a group of the students that attended the "Live from Surgery" program at Liberty Science Center sponsored by the Berkeley Heights Education Foundation in partnership with Summit Medical Group.  Credits: BHEF
Reenie Harris, a kidney donor, speaks to students about her journey as an altruistic donor. Harris volunteers through The Sharing Network as part of the "Live from Surgery" series. Credits: Bobbie Peer

JERSEY CITY, NJ -  The Berkeley Heights Education Foundation (BHEF), in partnership with Summit Medical Group (SMG), sponsored "Live From Surgery", an educational program where 91 Gov. Livingston students in the 9th grade traveled to Liberty Science Center (LSC) to observe a live surgery via video teleconference of a kidney transplant. 

The students interacted with Dr. Stuart Geffner, organ transplant surgeon from St. Barnabas Hospital, with guided discussions through a LSC facilitator. 

Dr. Geffner has helped build the St. Barnabas transplant program into one of the 10 largest kidney and pancreas transplant centers in the United States.  He has achieved "firsts" in New Jersey regarding transplant surgery, including performing a transplant on the youngest pediatric patient in the state and performing New Jersey's first laparoscopic kidney donation surgery as stated in the Barnabas Health website.

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Dr. Geffner provided the students a step-by-step walk-through of the donor and recipient surgeries. The students observed  all angles of the kidney and watched the procedures involved with the dissection of the veins, arteries and ureter to isolate the donor's kidney and then the attachment of the transplanted kidney into the recipient. 

Along with the step-by-step description of the transplant, Dr. Geffner talked of his personal journey of college, medical school, residency and his 19 years experience in the organ transplant specialty.  

The participants considering a field in medicine were able to look inside the many careers of the surgical team and ask specific questions to the doctors. 

The students saw directly how content they learned in class is being applied within the medical field to help save lives said Susan Rembetsy, Gov. Livingston Science Supervisor. 

"I was interested in being a surgeon, I  always thought I would be too queasy to perform it, but after seeing this, it makes me realize that it isn't that bad," said Michelle Cisneros. 

Students that were hesitant of viewing the procedure, came out of the program, and are reconsidering their career options. "I never was interested in pursuing the field, but now I'm more open to it," said Killian Quinn.

"It was eye-opening on how they perform the surgery. I was surprised there wasn't more blood during the surgery," said Maddie Forrester. The total blood loss during the surgery was equivalent to one tablespoon according to Geffner. 

Sample medical equipment was passed around throughout the program, giving the students a hands-on feel and visual of the equipment actually being used during the procedures.

The students were intrigued with how the transplanted kidney is harvested as they witnessed the kidney immediately adjust to the recipient's body to function and produce urine. 
"I would definitely recommend it [Live from Surgery program], it is beneficial to see if you want to go into the medical field," said Alyssa Megson.
"This reminds me of why I volunteer, to bring programs like 'Live from Surgery' to students.  There is no way a student who attended this program will ever look at biology the same way.  Talk about bringing learning to life," said Pam Yoss, President of BHEF. 
Reenie Harris, a kidney donor, spoke to the students about her personal journey of being an altruistic donor. Harris volunteers for NJ Sharing Network to provide her story and educate the public as to the life-saving benefits of transplantation with the goal of increasing the number of organ donors.
"You don't have many connections with the family being an altruistic donor," said Harris. "Donating the kidney was the beginning of my journey and I wanted this to be an ongoing message of the need." 
Dr. Geffner wants the students to take home the knowledge that there is a tremendous shortage of organ donors.  There currently is a wait list of five years for a kidney transplant. "Think about it, at the age of 18, know what your own wishes are [on being an organ donor]," said Dr. Geffner.
"A huge thank you goes out to the Summit Medical Group for partnering with our great Berkeley Heights Education Foundation in order to make this trip possible," said Rembetsy.


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