JON M. FLETCHER/The Times-Union
Darnell-Cookman Middle/High School freshman Tony Hansberry
has been working with Bruce Nappi, the administrative director at the
University of Florida’s Center for Simulation Education and Safety
Research, on a new technique for sewing up hysterectomy patients.
A Jacksonville researcher has developed a way of sewing up patients after hysterectomies that stands to reduce the risk of complications and simplify the tricky procedure for less-seasoned surgeons.
Oh, and he’s 14 years old.
Feel free to read that again.
Tony Hansberry II is a ninth-grader who, as it happens, will be presenting his findings today before an auditorium filled with doctors just like any of his board-certified – and decades older – colleagues would. He would say he was following in the footsteps of “Doogie Howser, M.D.” – if he weren’t too young to have heard of the television show.
Instead, he says that his remarkable accomplishments are merely steps toward his ultimate goal of becoming a University of Florida-trained neurosurgeon.
“I just want to help people and be respected, knowing that I can save lives,” said Tony, the son of a registered nurse mom and an African Methodist Episcopal church pastor dad.
To be sure, he had some help along the way, but, then again, most researchers do. The seeds of his project were planted last summer during his internship at the University of Florida’s Center for Simulation Education and Safety Research, based at Shands Jacksonville.
To understand why a teenager would be a hospital intern, it’s important to know that Tony is a student down the street from Shands at Darnell-Cookman Middle/High School, a magnet school geared toward all things medical. (Students, for example, master suturing by the eighth grade.)
“It was truly independent that he figured it out,” Nappi said, adding that a representative for the device’s manufacturer told him that the endo stitch had never been used for that purpose.
Tony’s unpracticed hands were able to stitch three times faster with the endo stitch vs. the conventional needle driver. Further study may prove whether the same is true for more experienced surgeons, Seibel said.
In addition to cutting surgical time, the technique may help surgeons who don’t do many hysterectomies because it’s easier to use the endo stitch, he added.