Thanks to a Gift from the Brody Foundation, 3D Printing Is the Latest Innovative Tool for UMSOM Physicians.
The old phrase, “the doctor can see you now,” has taken on a new meaning at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, with the introduction of a novel 3D printing lab on campus, where physicians can produce high-fidelity anatomical models of patient organs and skeletal features, based on data from computerized tomography (CT) scans.
Acquisition of the advanced commercial 3D printer, software, and modeling supplies was made possible through an initial generous gift in 2018 by the locally based Norman and Florence Brody Family Foundation. As use of the printer has grown dramatically in subsequent months, the Foundation, run by Bill Brody, his wife Susan Brody, and her daughter Deidre Lipsicas, have stepped forward recently to make an even more substantial gift that will underwrite the ongoing operations and upkeep of the new Brody 3D Printing Lab, currently located on the fourth floor of the school’s Bressler Research Building.
Such 3D-printed anatomical models, while novel, are rapidly gaining wider usage by today’s physicians and surgeons for the purposes of analysis, patient education, and even practice in advance of complex procedures. Invented in 1984, 3D printing involves taking a digital model of an object and rendering an exact copy in a series of successive layers of material, usually a durable plastic. By the early 1990s, 3D printing was first used in medical applications such as dental implants and custom-made prosthetics. Today, this technology is being employed in a variety of ways, including the creation of patient-specific surgical models, custom surgical tools, and even bio-printed artificial tissue and organs. At the UMSOM, this endeavor has been spearheaded by Jeffrey D. Hirsch, MD, Assistant Professor of Diagnostic Radiology and Nuclear Medicine.
The conception of UMSOM’s Brody 3D Printing Lab goes back to 2013, when Mrs. Brody was referred to the Department of Medicine’s Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program. After diagnosing Mrs. Brody with a rare cardiac condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, her cardiologist and cardiac surgeon guided her through a successful surgery and recovery.
Once she regained her health, Mrs. Brody told her cardiologist that she wanted to make a gift that would improve the diagnosis of cardiac disease. She was told about the need for a novel approach for improving cardiac surgeries, namely a 3D printer that would help to clearly define a patient’s anatomy and improve surgical and device choices and placement decisions in advance of surgery. This capability would be especially important to the congenital heart population, where everybody’s cardiac anatomy is different.
UMSOM’s Office of Development has worked closely with the Brody Foundation to develop a program that has led to the opening of the 3D printing lab. “The program has really taken off,” notes Pamela V. Lambert, Interim Associate Dean for Development. “Physicians are seeing that it’s a more efficient means of accurately planning procedures in terms of determining a surgical approach and sizing implants. One surgeon commented that with a 3D anatomical model, he can start to do his surgery before he even gets into the OR.”
As this technology has been made available to other physicians, they immediately realize how invaluable this tool can be for their own practice and patient population. There are plans to set up training videos and direct training for physicians, fellows, and residents, so that they can use it more independently as well.
As for Susan Brody, she couldn’t be more pleased with the results of her philanthropy. “We wanted to make a real difference in a tangible way,” she says. “As I see it, our gifts have done just that, by giving surgeons the insight to better plan their procedures in advance.”