Outgoing University of Texas System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa said with the introduction of the UT-Rio Grande Valley Smart Hospital, future medical students won’t suffer through first-time jitters when treating patients.

With humor Cigarroa recalled his own experiences as a medical student whose hand shook as he inserted an intravenous line for the first time.

Cigarroa said medical students will have first-hand experience, will be able to learn from each other and teach each other in the new simulation lab.

Local community leaders, medical and academic heads from the UT System and across the Rio Grande Valley gathered Wednesday for the dedication and unveiling of the UT-RGV Smart Hospital at the Regional Academic Health Center here.

The simulation hospital, designed and built using $10 million in funding from the UT System Board of Regents, is equipped with the latest in medical simulation technology.

Instead of using live patients, lifelike robotic mannequins that can mimic human sound and breathing rhythms are tucked into the hospital beds.

Programmed and controlled by the students, the mannequins can portray a variety of scenarios from childbirth to operations to anesthetics to pediatrics.

The scenarios are then filmed and replayed for the students and faculty to review so they can effectively critique their simulations.

State-of-the-art video conferencing technology will allow students and health care providers at remote locations to join simulations and discussions.

The 15,000-square-foot smart hospital is housed in the Academic and Clinical Research Building at the RAHC campus. The hospital is designed to bring together current and future doctors, nurses and allied health professionals from across the Valley to experience high-quality, realistic and technologically advanced clinical simulation.

“The reality is it will be a lure not just to medical but other health professionals by bringing together a series of disciplines to help build better care,” said Dr. Francisco Fernandez, the inaugural dean of the UT-RGV medical school.

The hospital will be available for UT-RGV students from a variety of disciplines and will also be available to health care providers, first-responders, high school students at area health-focused schools and others who can benefit from clinical simulation.

Located on the RAHC’s second floor, Harlingen School of Health Profession students demonstrated medical scenarios to the touring public.

Tina Garza, principal of Harlingen School of Health Professions, said the smart hospital will allow her students to grow in the fields of their choosing.

“This is going to be hands-on experience that will prepare them when they go out into the medical community,” Garza said. “They will be able to connect with the patient.”

Lack of communication between patient and caregiver is where medical errors sometimes occur, Fernandez said. Having students gain experience in the smart hospital is a way of correcting that lapse in communication.

©2014 Valley Morning Star (Harlingen, Texas)