Enhancing student learning and patient care with Jefferson Health and Ultimaker

Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health have a history of using the latest technologies in the medical field. For students, early introduction to these is essential to develop their skillset. For clinical practices, these technologies are being used to optimise workflow and speed up the operation process for surgeons. One of these technologies is 3D printing, which is being used for both education and surgery.

At the Health Design Lab at Jefferson University, they use Ultimaker 3D printers to bring students and clinicians together, with 3D printing providing a platform for innovation-driven education. The Lab is not focused on one area of dentistry or medical, but rather a wide range of medical and educational applications, from ENT surgery to radiology. The clinicians there started out with an Ultimaker 2+ to test 3D printing and they were impressed with what they found: it allowed them to print accurate models in a wide range of materials, as well as more complex models thanks to the dual print head for PVA support material.


Imaged above: A student inspecting a 3D printed anatomy model. 

They now have an Ultimaker 3 and Ultimaker S5 in their workshop with these printers offering superior performance to the 2+. Students use these machines to manufacture their own patient anatomy models. This helps them master the processes behind interpreting medical scan data, segmenting critical features, and mastering the process of producing 3D printings.

But of course it isn’t just students who are using 3D printing to their advantage, qualified clinicians are too. “We can take an image from a patient scan, we can convert that to a 3D printed model in a matter of minutes, and then have that model in the hands of a surgeon in just about a day,” says Dr. Pugliese, a Doctor of Pharmacy.

Improving patient care

3D printing is being used to improve patient care in a number of ways. The most obvious benefit is being able to present patients with a physical anatomy model so they can understand the surgical procedure they will undergo.

“When we introduce these models to the patients their eyes get big and they ask a lot of questions, it helps them to understand what the complexity of their case really is,” says Dr. Amy Mackey, Vice Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Abington Hospital, “It’s just so much better to have the patient on the same page and these models really help bring that reality to them.”


Imaged above: A surgery with a 3D printed anatomy model being used as a reference. 

Elsewhere, 3D printing is being used to improve surgery. A specific case is that of Jefferson’s Abington Hospital, where a 3D printed model was used during a complicated C-section to precisely study the vasculature for a patient’s uterus. Surgeons at the hospital used the model to identify fibroids which in turn reduced the risk of patient harm.

The radiology department at Abington Hospital is also using 3D printing. They 3D print models to provide students and sometimes patients with a greater understanding of anatomy.

“As a radiologist who is exposed to a lot of new technology, I’m really thrilled about showing 3D prints to my colleagues as well as to medical students and residents, because a lot of them don’t know about this incredible tool that we actually have access to,” says Dr. Philip Lim, Chair of the Department of Radiology at Abington Hospital.

Ultimaker 3D printers have proven to be a valuable asset to the 16 hospitals within the Jefferson Health system. The ability to fabricate high quality anatomy models and even surgical prototypes is invaluable. They have four Ultimaker’s on the go right now with plans to expand when necessary.

“3D printing is easy, cost-effective, and inspires my team to try new things. We chose the Ultimaker S5 because it was so reliable and easy to use, and we hope to add even more of them to our lab in the future.”

3D Printer: Ultimaker 3 – Ultimaker S5

Materials: Multiple. Discover Ultimaker filaments.

This information was first published on the Ultimaker website. If you enjoyed this case study, you can find more like it at our medical page