By Christopher Achim and Edison Smith, BA

As surgical technology and surgical assisting educators, you know the importance of stepping outside of the classroom to attend industry events. We encourage you to share this article with your students to help them learn more about the importance of getting involved with professional organizations and starting the groundwork of building their networks.

The 2021 Association of Surgical Technology (AST) Conference took place July 21-23 in Las Vegas, NV. Christopher Achim and Edison Smith, student attendees from the Nevada Career Institute, Las Vegas, share their key takeaways from the memorable experience, including their favorite sessions, an overview of the student forum and the importance of attending an event of this magnitude early in their professional careers.

Christopher Achim, Surgical Technology Student, Nevada Career Institute, Las Vegas, NV

The 2021 Association of Surgical Technology (AST) Conference was nothing shy of inspirational. I am currently a surgical technology student, but soon will be practicing in the field. Everything I’ve learned during this event sparked a higher interest and passion for the career I chose.

Organ Donation and the OR,” presented by Dr. Paul Chestovich, MD, a professor for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) School of Medicine who specializes in trauma, critical care, burns and acute care surgery, was a personal favorite of mine. Being a specialist, he spoke about the intricacies of the organ donation process in the operating room, the differences between brain death and donation after circulatory death, and how the processes can be facilitated. He raised everyone’s awareness on the importance of organ donation and its surgical processes, highlighting how organs are one of the very few “commodities” that can be used immediately for those in dire need to prolong and save lives.

I also enjoyed Dr. Jennifer Baynosa’s “Breast Cancer Surgery and Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy” session. Baynosa, a professor of breast oncology surgery at the UNLV School of Medicine and program director of UNLV’s School of Medicine General Surgery Residency, focused on breast cancer research and how the disease metastasizes. She also discussed how mastectomies have changed over the years, touching on the infra-mammary approach to removing the sentinel node. It was amazing to learn about the curative procedure for a cancer patient and how it can be carried out without destroying half of someone’s upper torso.

The best part about both of these sessions was the acknowledgement of the surgical technologist’s role and function during surgery, and how we play a fundamental role on the surgical team. This conference acknowledged that surgical technologists have a key role in saving lives, and, most importantly, prioritized the importance of education in order for them to carry out their jobs and anticipate what is to come in the field.

Pictured left to right: Edison Smith, Student, Nevada Career Institute – Las Vegas, Silviana Vina, CST, Surgical Technology Program Director, Nevada Career Institute – Las Vegas, ARC/STSA Executive Director Ron Kruzel, Ashley Koehly, Student, Nevada Career Institute – Las Vegas, and Christopher Achim, Student, Nevada Career Institute – Las Vegas.

Edison Smith, BA, Surgical Technology Student, Nevada Career Institute, Las Vegas, NV

The opportunity to attend the 2021 AST National Conference as a first year student was unreal. Not only did I gain knowledge of what AST is about, but I also gained new friends, colleagues and connections that will be beneficial in the future.

First year students always want the nitty gritty within their field; this was greatly represented by the “Emergent Trauma Surgery: The Crash Thoracotomy and Laparotomy” presentation by Dr. Jonathan Nguyen, MD. His presentation left me in awe of what life could be after acquiring my certified surgical technologist (CST) certification and confirmed that this is the path I want to take.

Another part that captured my attention was the ASTSA Student Forum. I was curious to see how students could connect, have a voice and be involved in this field, especially as many of us came from different parts of the country and have our own unique experiences to draw from. NBSTSA also hosted a certification exam Q&A session, giving us a deeper look into how we should study for the CST exam. At the end of our time together, we had the honor to vote for our ASTSA representatives as well.

Regardless of being a student or a professional surgical technologist, a first assist or a circulator nurse, an educator or an accreditation representative, this annual conference has to be on every surgical professional’s bucket list to attend. I look forward to attending the 2022 AST Surgical Technology Conference in New Orleans, seeing some familiar faces, and learning as much as possible to better serve my future patients.

Christopher Achim (left) and Edison Smith, BA, (right) are first year students at the Nevada Career Student Institute in Las Vegas, Nevada, graduating in 2022. Smith earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in 2019.