Young mind eyes brain surgery solution

Special to Western NewsCanada-Wide Science Festival gold medal winner Nora Boone took one of the top spots for her human brain simulation tool, which can assist non-neurosurgeons should they need to perform emergency brain surgery. The 18-year-old Boone will begin her Medical Sciences degree this fall at Western.

When Nora Boone sees a problem, she solves it – especially when that solution could save lives.

The 18-year-old’s work around creating a human brain simulation tool to assist non-neurosurgeons perform emergency brain surgery, garnered the Newfoundland and Labrador teen a gold medal at the recent Canada-Wide Science Festival in Saskatchewan. She begins her Medical Sciences degree at Western this fall.

“Initially, my idea stemmed from some shocking statistics I came across concerning my own province. We have the highest proportion of provincial populations living outside of a one hour catchment to a trauma centre and only neurosurgical care unit,” Boone said. “Head-injured patients requiring operative intervention often endure very long and life-threatening transport times to receive proper treatment.

“I wanted to create a low-cost simulation tool that could train the community general surgeons living in rural communities to perform emergency craniotomies for trauma and, ultimately, eliminate life threatening transport times.”

Boone has been working on this project for the past two years under the mentorship of Memorial University’s Clinical Learning and Simulation Centre and neurosurgeon Dr. Rodger Avery.

“Originally, I was making the model myself with low cost and readily available materials such as plaster of Paris, spray-foam insulation and a swim cap to simulate the dura (surrounds the brain),” she said, adding although the model served its purpose and was well received, because they were each hand crafted they lacked consistency.

“To improve the anatomical accuracy and consistency of the model, I incorporated 3D printing into the construction process, with the medical school’s 3D team. I initially contacted them when I had the idea of incorporating 3D printing into the construction process of the model, and they enthusiastically jumped on board. They have been such an amazing and supportive team to work with ever since.”

Boone said the simulation tool can be incorporated into the training of general surgical residents to prepare them should they be faced with a rural community emergency situation involving a head injured patient requiring a craniotomy. It could also be used in the training of neurosurgical residents as there is currently no cost-efficient simulation tool available for that purpose.

Looking forward to September, she can’t wait to begin her time at Western.

“I’m excited to further explore how science and technology can greatly impact medical advances,” said Boone, who has been awarded a President’s Scholarship to attend Western. “I’m looking forward to starting my undergrad program. Right now, I’m thinking of pursuing Medicine. I may complete a Master’s between my undergraduate program and medical school, if I want to expand or further explore studies from my undergraduate research.”