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VMASC Welcomes New Head of Medical and Health Care M&S Research

To hear Andrea Parodi speak about it, her path to associate professor of modeling and simulation research at Old Dominion University's Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center (VMASC) was a natural progression.

The former head of nursing research at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth and former program manager for Navy/Marine Corps Field Medical Technologies, Parodi believes the entire field of medical modeling and simulation is undergoing a similar evolution.

"I think modeling and simulation is extremely powerful, and has a lot of potential. But the onus of responsibility to show efficacy is on us," said Parodi, new head of the medical and health care modeling and simulation research area at VMASC. "We need to continue development and refinement of all modeling and simulation capabilities."

Parodi added: "There's a tremendous impetus to significantly reduce or eliminate live-tissue use and research. The challenge is that the clinicians need to develop a certain degree of skill proficiency before they 'practice' on a human. But how do you do that?

"Modeling the situation in a theoretical sense is the perfect solution. The problem is, the science hasn't gotten us to that end point yet. We need the design and development of more true-to-life types of tissue, organs and skill trainers that have the look and feel of the human. We also are continuing to promote the use of other modeling and simulation capabilities to test, evaluate and project the needs or outcomes of potential clinical interventions."

Parodi comes to VMASC following a 26-year career in the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps. She has a Doctor of Science degree in nursing from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and completed doctoral work in higher education leadership. Her dissertation focus areas were in health policy analysis and education. Her clinical focus has been in burns, trauma and cardio-thoracic surgery, and she has a master's degree in nursing (critical care) from Vanderbilt University.

Parodi got into modeling and simulation in 2001 when she was assigned to the Department of Modeling and Simulation at the Naval Health Research Center (NHRC) in San Diego. Her first assignment at NHRC had to do with modeling casualty management and designing surgical systems for casualty care. "I went on to develop models for special surgical system designs," she said.

Medical modeling and simulation has changed dramatically, even in 10 years, Parodi noted. "Now we're looking at modeling whole worlds and environments as therapeutic interventions, as opportunities to desensitize some people from violence, as well as to sensitize others to patient needs and capabilities."

Models and simulations are sometimes designed with so-called "distractor" events or actors that offer challenges to providing assessment and care, so providers can learn to maintain focus in very difficult situations.

"We're teaching people to deal with the reality they encounter and can't control," Parodi said. "These opportunities help people build different skill sets in their heads - the ability to walk into a tough environment and thrive."

Parodi was also the head of the Team Resource Center at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth. The center offered a program called TeamSTEPPS, which teaches a very clear means of communication during critical events. The program is based on the aviation model of crew resource management. At the center, Parodi got to know several VMASC faculty members, including Mark Scerbo, professor of psychology, and Stacie Ringleb, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering.

After working side-by-side with VMASC faculty, testing the effectiveness of using modeling and simulation for team training, Scerbo suggested that Parodi apply for a faculty position at VMASC after she retired from the Navy.

"We all like working together; it's been fun and it's just grown from that," Parodi said. "I hadn't even thought about where to start looking for work when I retired, but I am really glad I took this position."

This article was posted on: May 19, 2011

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