AAD: Dr. Vidal, what prompted you to create "The Basement Membrane Zone" video lecture?
Dr. Vidal: At Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) in Bethesda, Md., where I did my dermatology residency, the residents teach each other the basic sciences. Residents had to choose a topic and give a 45-minute lecture on it. When I reviewed the topic list and saw basement membrane, I said, “That’s a tough one. Everyone hates that topic!” So, I decided to tackle it.
I reviewed how residents handled the topic in the past, and like every good resident, I thought I could do it better. As an undergrad at the University of Florida, I majored in biological illustration with a focus on computer illustration. I decided to put some of my technical skills to use to create a video lecture that focused on the epidermal basement membrane’s structure, origin, and function.
It was so well received that it became part of the WRNMMC curriculum the next year. To my surprise, residents were using it to study for their boards. Several of my fellow residents commented that the video helped them understand the basement membrane for the first time.
The "Basement Membrane Zone" video lecture is available on the AAD website.
AAD: When did you decide to apply for the Sulzberger Institute grant to create an expanded version of the lecture?
Dr. Vidal: Colonel Scott Norton (Ret.), the former chief of dermatology at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and one of my mentors, suggested that I apply for the grant. I applied on a whim, not thinking I’d actually get the grant. I was shocked when I was notified in 2009 that I was awarded a grant for $20,000 to produce the video series.
I didn't create the "Basement Membrane Zone" video just for nerdy dermatology geeks.
AAD: But shortly after receiving the grant, your life became rather complicated.
Dr. Vidal: Right! I was given less than a month’s notice to deploy to Afghanistan, where I served as the battalion surgeon and senior trauma physician for an Echelon level 2+ facility, which means we had dental, basic laboratory tests, x-ray, and patient holding capabilities, and provided emergency care and trauma resuscitation procedures without general anesthesia/surgery. So, I didn't get started on creating the series until I returned from Afghanistan in 2010.
AAD: It took you about a year and a half to complete the project, which includes a one-hour video lecture, 3D visualizations of the basement membrane and its components, a textbook, and study notes. That’s a lot of time and effort! Why are you offering it at no charge?
Dr. Vidal: As a medical educator, I believe in sharing information. That’s why I’ve given the Academy rights to showcase the series on its website. My primary interest is that people use it to educate themselves. I’m not interested in using it to turn a profit.
I created it primarily for residents. It’s a really good introduction to the basement membrane, but it’s also helpful to more experienced physicians. For physicians going through recertification, it’s a great refresher on basic sciences. It’s also an excellent resource for researchers because I did an exhaustive review of literature and summarized about 70 years of research to create this series.
But I didn’t create it just for nerdy dermatology geeks. It can also be used by high-school and college students. I designed it to appeal to a broad audience by attempting to simplify complex concepts in easy-to-understand terms.
My unit treated more than 178 traumas during our time in Afghanistan. In a situation like that, it really pushes you to use the full extent of your medical training.
AAD: You created almost everything in the video series yourself and did it under budget.
Dr. Vidal: I even returned about $2,900 of my original $20,000 grant to the Sulzberger Institute. They asked, “Are you sure you don’t need it?” And I said, “Nah, I’m good.”
Doing everything myself presented some challenges. I had to record the video narration when I was based in Korea. I didn’t have a studio, so I had to do it in my house. I had to exile my family for a couple hours, and to reduce sound I had to close all the windows and turn off the air-conditioning. So, I was sweating the entire time I recorded the narration. My cousin, who is a sound engineer at Duke University, worked on the background music for the project. He did a great job.
AAD: But, of course, you’ve faced more difficult challenges. You’ve served in combat on two occasions — first in Iraq and then in Afghanistan.
Dr. Vidal: I received a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart after I was injured in Iraq in 2005. I was hit with shrapnel from a rocket attack. I was lucky. The vehicle I was standing by was destroyed by the rocket and one of the soldiers near me was badly injured. I carried him to safety and treated him before others realized I’d been hit, too.
By the time I arrived in Afghanistan, I was a dermatologist, but I served as a general medical officer and surgeon. I dealt primarily with traumas, but my dermatology training helped a great deal. I did a lot of facial surgeries. My unit treated more than 178 traumas during our time in Afghanistan. In a situation like that, it really pushes you to use the full extent of your medical training.
AAD: Do you have plans to create additional video series?
Dr. Vidal: I want to do other series similar to this one, but the demands of an active duty military medical officer preclude any significant commitment right now. Part of being an officer means self-sacrifice. You have to sacrifice your personal goals for the greater good.
In the old days, Elvis joined the Army but was allowed to go off to do USO shows. In today’s Army, we have an obligation to our soldiers in combat, and those transitioning to peacetime operations back at home. It’s a matter of priorities. I am currently considering applying for a new Sulzberger grant in the future. I am looking at the logistics and budget requirements. If I can adjust my schedule and the budget issues get resolved, then I’ll submit a new grant proposal for 2014.
AAD: We're grateful that you managed to complete the basement membrane project while you had the opportunity.
Dr. Vidal: No one does these things on his own. It was a very difficult project, and I may not have completed it if I didn’t have the support of my mentors: Col. George Turiansky, Leonard Sperling, MD, and Thomas Darling, MD. They encouraged me and motivated me when I was exhausted and wanted to quit. Of course, I wouldn’t have been able to complete the series without the generous support of the Sulzberger Institute.
When I applied for the grant, I had a friend of mine get in contact with a past Sulzberger grant recipient. Unfortunately, the former grant recipient was reluctant to advise me about best practices on applying. This individual thought that letting me see her successful grant proposal would limit her chances in receiving future grants, by “helping the competition.” I believe that modeling others' work is the most sincere form of flattery. So, I invite other AAD members to reach out to me if they are considering applying for a grant. I’ll be happy to share what I’ve learned about the process, and will send them a copy of my original grant proposal for the 3D basement membrane project.
LTC Eduardo M. Vidal, MD, graduated from the University of Florida in 1994 with a Bachelor of Science degree in biological illustration and a minor in pre-medical studies. With the help of the Army’s Health Professions Scholarship Program, he attended the University of Miami School of Medicine and was awarded a Doctor of Medicine degree in 1998. Dr. Vidal completed a residency in dermatology at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., in 2008. He serves as the deputy commander for clinical services at Raymond W. Bliss Army Health Center, Fort Huachuca, Ariz.
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