The Latin American Training and Research Center in Minimally Invasive Techniques—CLEMI

By: Adrián Hernández Aldana, Industrial Engineer, MM, MF, Mi; Chief Executive Officer, Sociedad Colombiana de Cirugía Ortopédica y Traumatología

Founded in 2007 by the Colombian Society of Orthopedic Surgery and Traumatology (Sociedad Colombiana de Cirugía Ortopédica y Traumatología [SCCOT]), the Latin American Training and Research Center in Minimally Invasive Techniques (CLEMI) has been providing practical training in minimally invasive techniques since 2008. To date, more than 3,000 orthopaedic surgeons have participated in more than 500 surgical skills training events, with most coming from outside of Colombia. CLEMI was created in response to the fact that many advanced professionals were leaving Colombia to train and work in minimally invasive surgery, leaving traditional surgical techniques as the standard of care in the country.

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More than 3,000 orthopaedic surgeons have participated in 500 surgical skills training events.
Courtesy of CLEMI

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With a goal of improving the skills and expertise of local surgeons while keeping them at home, CLEMI took on the challenge to teach advanced techniques, and soon it was hosting dozens of surgeons from a number of Latin American nations.

SCCOT and CLEMI established relationships with other similar centers for minimally invasive training and research, such as CCMI–Jesus Uson in Spain, and in other countries around the world, including Argentina, Brazil, Germany, China, and the United States. Relationships were even established with groups from different fields in order to replicate many of the tried-and-true training methods already in use.

The facility does not have any commercial interests and does not promote any specific products or services. It instead provides a space for a variety of competing technologies to be used as needed. Nevertheless, CLEMI is available for rent to medical technology firms that are looking to train physicians in the use of their equipment, something that in particular smaller firms lacking dedicated in-country training facilities have a hard time accomplishing on their own.

A number of training methods are used, including work with human cadavers and live animals and with computer and plastic simulators. Because of a peculiarity in recently introduced Colombian law, entire specimens rather than individual body parts have to be used during training.

In the training and research protocols, training is done as if real surgeries are being performed even though there are not any real patients, with real endoscopy equipment and adherence to other protocols such as covering C-arms in plastic sheeting and using radiographic imaging during the procedures. Anesthesia machines are also employed. Altogether, the facility has 10 endoscopic towers, a number of virtual simulators, six microsurgery microscopes, 21 mechanical simulators of various types, and five C-arms.

In addition to training and professional development, CLEMI is undertaking product development to help its alumni improve existing surgical techniques and even develop new ones. With this in mind, CLEMI is moving toward using the center as a test bed for verifying and validating new devices and for helping inventive surgeons obtain patents for their ideas.

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Aerial view of CLEMI , located in Bogota, Colombia.
Courtesy of CLEMI

The facility was designed by hospital and research center architects, incorporating details that contribute to a true clinical simulation: When you are inside you might think you are in a real clinical environment. The various rooms are modular and are outfitted to match the needs of the courses under way at any given time.

The CLEMI organization’s mission and approach to surgical training and research, as well as its location and design, offer the opportunity to experience a realistic environment in which to focus and practice surgical protocols. The CLEMI staff is proud and passionate about the work that they do.

CLEMI seeks to be a model for other societies and organizations, so they can replicate what CLEMI has learned about conducting surgical training. Perhaps we will see a growth of independent medical training facilities around the world that are designed from the ground up for their core task, focused on education, and run in a realistic way that promotes cohesive practical learning.

For more information, visit www.clemi.edu.co or write to info@clemi.edu.co and/or eventos@clemi.edu.co

Adrián Hernández Aldana, CEO of SCCOT, is founder and secretary general of CLEMI. He is the former executive director of the Sociedad Latinoamericana de Ortopedia y Traumatología (SLAOT) Federation (2005–2015).

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