Dean Hendrickson

Dean Hendrickson, DVM

Professor of Surgery, CSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital

SurgiReal was founded by a team of surgeons at the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Science,  Dr. Hendrickson and team developed a multilayer silicone suture pad that mimics live tissue for use in medical training programs.  SurgiReal exists to help improve care for patients across disciplines. We are a company that strives to support students and educators as they train to give patients the best care they are capable of. Our team is committed to creating the most realistic and affordable training models which will give confidence to any patient who knows their doctor learned on SurgiReal products.

SurgiReal offers a full suite of surgical training products, including:  accessories; simulation materials for hollow organs, humans, large animals, and small animals; specialty pads; suture pads, and suture training kits.

AUTM Better World Project

[Founder Dean Hendrickson shares his memories on the origin of SurgiReal]

“[SurgiReal] all came from me being frustrated that we didn’t have a good way to transition students from didactic education to hands on training in their first surgery, which is always so stressful for the students.  I wanted to find a way to bridge that gap.  We started playing around with silicone – mixing up a bunch of batches of different concentrations and testing each one.  We would say, “no that doesn’t cut very well, or this one sutures alright.” Then we would find one and say “This one cuts and sutures OK.”  We would always do it in batches of 10; we would throw away 8, and with those other 2, we would make another batch of 10 until we had a layer we were satisfied with. Then we would move on to the next layer. We did that until we had 5 layers of the body wall.

Then we made our own vessels. I built this crazy looking box with spinning rods in it to spray silicone into because there just wasn’t anything out there that worked like we wanted it to.  Ventures heard about what we were doing and helped us start the patent process and path to commercialization. We [the inventors and CSU] now jointly hold 4 patents. SurgiReal has another 4 after the company moved out of the University.

We took our product to a couple educational [trade shows] to show people. We found out very quickly that our product scaled into all areas of medicine -veterinary, human, nursing, PA, NP – all those things. Anybody that sutured could benefit from what we had. It wasn’t long until we were in 30 programs and then 50 programs. We are currently at over 600 programs globally.

“There is a big communication gap between the people who make models and the people who use models. We fill a really cool niche because I am an end-user as well as a developer.  We want to be the company that listens to what [a user] needs, then makes it, and continues working with [the company] to make sure we make it right.

A great example of this is when we were working with the Department of Defense on a product.  We had one of the guys in charge of the training for emergencies there for our presentation. He came in, but you could clearly see that he was already tuned out and in a “I’m gonna give you some time, but I have a lot to do and your’e just another group”.  When he found out I was a surgeon, his entire demeanor changed –  he said “you’re a surgeon?” “Yeah, I’m an equine surgeon”, “Come with me”.

He proceeded to walk me through their entire simulation center and said “This is where we struggle, because the people who make [our simulation materials] have no idea what tissue feels like.”  So we started working together and we have developed a few models with their input.  And they are like “This is what we need. We need somebody who understands how it is supposed to work.”

– Founder Dean Hendrickson

“I wouldn’t hesitate to do it all again,” says Hendrickson.

“Every now and again I go back into the mentality of giving it all away.  But then I realize that are a bunch of programs using our suture pads that wouldn’t have found out about them at an academic meeting.  Commercialization is a way to impact more people.”

– Founder Dean Hendrickson