DMU podiatric students present winning poster

The winning team: Tobee Gunter, Anthony Smaldino, Ryan Larsen, Travis “Drew” Anderson, Joseph Brown, Jonathan Nigro and Connor Reed

Members of DMU’s Student Chapter of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (SCACFAS) are outstanding representatives of the College of Podiatric Medicine and Surgery (CPMS) and the entire University, and they demonstrated that again at a national podiatric event: During the Annual Scientific Conference of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS) Feb. 19-22 in San Antonio, TX, they were awarded the first place prize in the ACFAS Student Scientific Poster Competition. The title of their poster was “3-D Printing for Surgical Planning of Complex Foot and Ankle Deformity.”

“The poster competition provides students from all podiatric medical schools a national forum to compare, contrast and exchange research ideas,” says Robert Yoho, D.P.M., M.S., FACFAS, CPMS dean. “That said, it is competitive, and we are very proud of the high-quality research our students, under the mentorship of a faculty advisor,  are conducting and presenting at the Annual ACFAS Annual Scientific Meeting as well as other scientific conferences.”

The students’ poster described the case of a patient of their faculty adviser, Collin Pehde, D.P.M., who was a 59-year-old diabetic man who had Charcot arthropathy in his lower left limb, which results in poor bone quality. The patient was facing a “revision” surgery, or a second surgery, for this condition. Both issues made this a highly complex case. That’s why Dr. Pehde had a CT scan made of the lower limb; a 3-D printer then converted the scan into a three-dimensional anatomical model. Having both the scan and the model allowed the doctor, with the students learning alongside him, to plan the best surgical procedure to correct the patient’s condition. Dr. Pehde also used the model to show the patient what he planned to do.

“This really helped with the planning. The patient had a great outcome,” says Joseph Brown, one of the poster’s authors and a third-year CPMS student.

As the students stated in their poster, traditional imaging limits the planning of complicated surgeries, like the one the patient had, when they require the bone to be surgically cut in multiple planes. “3-D anatomical models can address the multiplanar nature of complex deformities by improving spatial anatomical recognition,” they wrote.

While 3-D printing is increasingly being used for multiple applications, its utilization in planning the types of complex surgeries that diabetic patients can require was reflected in the literature review the students performed. “There were only two articles we found in the literature,” says SCACFAS President Travis “Drew” Anderson, a second-year CPMS student.

No surprise, then, that ACFAS conference attendees were interested in the students’ work. “We had a couple of physicians approach our poster who were interested in incorporating 3-D printing of foot models into their own practice,” says second-year CPMS student Anthony Smaldino. “They asked us about how the CT scan is used in the printing process.”

Beyond the $1,000 prize money the students received, being able to attend the ACFAS conference was an even bigger benefit. The event is the largest educational meeting for foot and ankle surgeons in the U.S., drawing attendees from around the world to discuss the most current techniques and technology for treatment of deformities, diseases and injures of the foot and ankle. A bonus for attendees from CPMS was watching one of its graduates, Scott Nelson, D.P.M.’00, FACFAS, be inducted on Feb. 20 as the 69th president of the 7,700-member ACFAS.

“There were many informative sessions, and it was great to meet other physicians, residents and students,” says Tobee Gunter, SCACFAS vice president and a second-year CPMS student.

Joseph agrees the conference provides stellar learning and networking opportunities. “It really motivates you as a student to keep going,” he says. “It assures you that, yes, you are going to be doing surgery someday.”

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