Ophthalmologists and ophthalmology fellows gather at USC for one of the most popular and unique oculoplastic plastic surgery courses offered in the United States.
By Eric Weintraub
On Friday, June 3rd and Saturday, June 4th, the USC Roski Eye Institute hosted “The Cutting Edge: The USC Oculofacial Plastic Surgery Surgical Skills Course”. Due to the course’s unique teaching methods and hands-on approach to surgery, The Cutting Edge is attended by physicians, fellows, and residents from around the world. It has quickly ascended to being one of the most popular and unique oculoplastic courses in the U.S. (attendance sold out amongst fellowships within a week).
The Cutting Edge was founded and is led by Sandy Zhang-Nunes, MD, an Associate Professor of Clinical Ophthalmology and Chief of Oculofacial Plastic Services at the USC Roski Eye Institute. Dr. Zhang-Nunes set out to create a course that covered the breadth and depth of her oculofacial subspecialty.
“I was looking for the course that I wish I had during and even after fellowship. I realized there was no unifying course out there, so I had to create it!” said Dr. Zhang-Nunes. “I wanted to provide an opportunity for everyone to learn from preceptors around the country, and for our subspecialty to cross-pollinate with other subspecialties. By creating this course, I continue learning myself and help others learn in the process.”
Unlike many surgical skills courses that use videos or medical devices to simulate the surgical experience, The Cutting Edge allows those in attendance to hone their surgical skills by operating on fresh human tissue. The approach provides a valuable learning environment for attendees, who have the ability to not only learn surgical techniques, but also get a better feel for the real tissue planes of the orbit and face, and build muscle memory while operating.
“You can learn surgical and non-surgical work,” said Chris Zoumalan, MD, an oculoplastic surgeon based in Beverly Hills and Adjunct Clinical Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology who helps leads the course. “You can learn how to use fillers to rejuvenate the eye, practice how to become a better blepharoplasty surgeon, and take it beyond. I’m so excited to be part of this event and deliver it to all these doctors who’ve come from around the world.”
“It’s great for the safety of patients because the doctors have been able to work on real tissue,” added David Samimi, MD, an Adjunct Clinical Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology at Eyesthetica, who also helps lead the course.
Throughout the two-day course, the human tissue is used to its full potential. The course starts with filler injections and fat repositioning on day one and ends with brow lifts and face lifts on day two. This approach allows attendees to see the progress they’ve made step-by-step, while still maximizing the use of the heads from a conservational standpoint.
“This is the course I wish I had as a fellow,” said Allison McCoy, MD, a guest faculty from SENTA Clinic. “It allows all of us to learn the latest and greatest in a safe environment and it helps to fill in the gaps in every trainee’s education, preparing us for our careers.”
Due to the course’s advanced, hands-on approach, attendees are expected to have fellowship-level experience or higher to get the most out of the two-day workshop. However, Roski ophthalmology residents also participated in the course to get a jumpstart on their surgical knowledge.
“It’s really exciting to attend, because we have attendings and faculty from all over the country who’re here to teach,” said Sona Shah, MD, a third-year chief resident. “It’s educational to see what different approaches there are to procedures and surgeries, and it’s great to have the ability to practice during the course as well.”
With the weekend concluded, Dr. Zhang-Nunes is already preparing to begin the next Cutting Edge course. “Our current space is really tight for the amount of people who want to come, so I plan to expand it and continually keep it updated to teach the most cutting-edge procedures.”