By Jane Collins ’18
A competition last week challenged students to use surgical tools most of them had
never used before.
It may sound like a scene out of an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy,” but for three
Lafayette students, it’s an experience that will prepare them for their future careers
Last week, students Steven Nesbit ‘17, Andrew Baker ‘18 and Justin Ungerleider ‘19,
members of Lafayette’s Health Professions Club, finished the first round in a multi-
round competition against Lehigh University, Muhlenberg College and Moravian
College. The competition tested their ability to use laparoscopic and robotic
simulator tools that are prevalent in modern surgery.
This April, they will be competing again, travelling to the Surgery Education Center
at the Lehigh Valley Health Network – Cedar Crest for the second round of the
According to Nesbit, who founded the Health Professions Club his sophomore year,
the club came up with the idea to organize the Laparoscopy Skills Olympics last
“We started thinking about what events we could do in the spring and one of the
things that came up was…the Laparoscopy Skills Olympics which is what the
American College of Surgeons hosts,” Nesbit said.
Nesbit said that the “Lap Olympics” involves students using laparoscopic tools, the
most common tools used in surgery today, to complete eight simple tasks, like
stringing beads onto a shoelace, in order to improve the motor skills required to use
these tools in actual surgery.
For Baker, inserting plastic shapes into their correct spots on a board using the
laparoscopic tools was the most fun part of the competition.
“It was very similar to a child’s game, with a difficult twist,” Baker said.
Nesbit and Baker will be competing in the laparoscopic competition in April, having
tied for first place in the first round of the competition that occurred last week.
Nesbit and Ungerleider, who placed first and second respectively last week, will also
be competing in the robotic simulator competition in April. The robotic simulator is
a newer device being used in surgery that is minimally invasive but just as difficult
to master as the laparoscopic tools.
In this part of the competition, Ungerleider and Nesbit will use the robotic simulator
to stack metal crates and dominos; whoever can stack the most in two minutes wins.
The catch? None of the student competitors had used any the tools prior to the first
round of the competition last week.
For many, that would seem like a troubling obstacle. But not for Nesbit.
“That’s the fun,” Nesbit said. “You don’t practice. Nothing is expected of you. There’s
pressure to compete with something you’ve never done before. There’s no way you
can prepare for it.”
Baker felt a similar thrill.
“Ultimately, it confirmed the presumption I had about becoming a surgeon. It gave
me a taste for the excitement, and now I want to go back,” Baker said. “Luckily, I get
the chance to.”