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LTU cardiovascular perfusion students receive white coats in inspiring ceremony

Release Date: August 24, 2022
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The first 12 students of LTU's Master of Science in Cardiovascular Perfusion program in their white coats, with LTU faculty.
LTU photo / Matt Roush

SOUTHFIELD—With a moving ceremony, inspiring speeches, and a heartfelt pledge, 12 Lawrence Technological University graduate students began their journey toward being licensed cardiovascular perfusionists Wednesday.

The “White Coat Ceremony” is a rite of passage for medical students created by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation in 1993. During the ceremony, a white coat is placed on each student's shoulders and a pledge is recited, signifying the students’ entrance into the medical profession.

The LTU students are beginning a five-semester, 88-credit-hour program that will qualify them to sit for the certification examination of the American Board of Cardiovascular Perfusion.

A critical shortage of perfusionists—medical professionals who operate equipment such as heart-lung machines—prompted LTU to launch the only perfusion program in Michigan, managed by LTU’s Department of Biomedical Engineering. There are about 4,000 perfusionists in the United States, working to support life in situations where a patient’s heart and lungs can’t, including heart surgery, transplant surgeries, and critical care. LTU is offering the program in partnership with Plymouth-based Comprehensive Care Services, one of the nation’s largest cardiovascular perfusion providers.

The 12 students accepted—from a field of 96 applicants—heard from LTU President Tarek Sobh, Vice President for Research and Dean of the LTU College of Engineering Nabil Grace, perfusion program director Kevin McCusker, and the program’s medical adviser, Phillip Robinson, M.D., a cardiothoracic surgeon at Ascension Health and the new program's medical adviser.

Robinson warned the students—with a grin—that they are “about to enter the brutal world of heart surgery. You’re about to see very, very Type A people, perfectionists, and you’re going to have to deal with those people because that’s what they will expect of you. It’s a very difficult world to work in, and (heart surgeons) are not the easiest people to get along with.” Robinson said open heart surgery is “the most risky and invasive surgery there is,” but also said “it’s the coolest thing in internal medicine. It is like being the fighter pilot of surgery.” He said the students will become experts in anatomy, chemistry, mathematics, and physics.

Robinson also treated the students, their families, and LTU faculty members to a few of the pithy sayings of his mentor, Dr. John Kirklin, a pioneering heart surgeon who helped perfect the heart-lung machine, a later generation of which these perfusionists will use in the operating room. Among them: “There’s always room at the top, it’s the bottom that’s crowded;” “Chance favors the prepared mind. The more I practice, the luckier I get;” and “The difference between a dead man and a live man is that a dead man has no problems. Problems are a sign of life.”

McCusker told the students that “it really is a great time to be here at LTU. We have state-of-the-art facilities, a supportive and welcoming administration, and talented faculty with decades of teaching behind them. If I could go row to row and give you all a big hug, I would. We are in the business of repairing hearts, and I can tell you that all of you have touched our hearts.”

President Sobh pointed out that LTU is “a very special and unique university,” one of a handful of private, comprehensive, technologically based universities in the United States that offers its graduates high starting salaries and virtually certain job placement. “Creating Michigan’s first cardiovascular perfusion program is further evidence of LTU’s status as the creative and innovative university of tomorrow,” Sobh said after the event.

And Dean Grace thanked Yawen Li, chair of the LTU Department of Biomedical Engineering, and Liping Liu, associate dean for graduate studies, for spearheading the creation of the program, along with Sobh and Linda Height, LTU’s vice president of finance and administration.

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Keynote speaker Phillip Robinson, M.D., a cardiothoracic surgeon at Ascension Health, and the LTU program's medical adviser, addresses the students. 
LTU photo / Matt Roush

Lawrence Technological University is one of only 13 private, technological, doctoral universities in the United States. Located in Southfield, Mich., LTU was founded in 1932, and offers more than 100 programs through its Colleges of Architecture and Design, Arts and Sciences, Business and Information Technology, and Engineering, and Specs@LTU. PayScale lists Lawrence Tech among the nation’s top 11 percent of universities for alumni salaries. Forbes and The Wall Street Journal rank LTU among the nation’s top 10 percent. U.S. News and World Report lists it in the top tier of best in the Midwest colleges. Students benefit from small class sizes and a real-world, hands-on, theory and practice education with an emphasis on leadership. Activities on Lawrence Tech’s 107-acre campus include nearly 80 student organizations and NAIA varsity sports.


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