As a leading medical training institution, Alameda Health System (AHS) continues to develop innovative learning opportunities like the new oral and maxillofacial surgery (OMFS) resident simulation program.

“Educating the next generation of oral and maxillofacial surgeons can be an intimidating task,” said Ricardo Lugo, DDS, MD and division chief for oral and maxillofacial surgery at the Wilma Chan Highland Hospital Campus (WCHHC). “However the commitment to OMFS resident education from our faculty, residency program and simulation center has led to invaluable partnerships to develop innovative training that we are proud of.”

The OMFS simulation program which began in 2022 gives residents the opportunity to train on manikins that have heartbeats, pulses and can talk. These high-technology manikins can simulate complex physiological responses such as a difficult airway and provide feedback on clinical interventions such as the quality of ventilations given. Currently there are twelve OMFS residents participating in the program.

Lugo shared that the goal of the OMFS simulation program curriculum is to build on the residents’ didactic lecture-based learnings through practical hands-on scenarios. The focus is onimproving procedural safety practices and demonstrating effective team behaviors including collaboration and communication skills with each other as well as with AHS registered dental assistants who participate in the exercises.

Working together in teams, each month the residents experience complex clinical emergency scenarios related to patient sedation and complications that may arise.

For example, Julene Funk, DDS, MD and OMFS chief resident physician who has participated in multiple simulation center sessions shared, “Recently I was part of a simulation lab exercisewhere residents went through a patient bronchospasm (asthma attack) scenario where the patient’s airway closes.” She helped assist the second year residents as they worked through the exercise that included intubation (inserting a breathing tube) to open the airway.

Overall, have really noticed a difference in the residents confidence levels after participating in simulation exercises,” Funk said. One of the most popular elements of the simulation exercises is the debrief where after each simulation participants and observers share feedback by describing what they saw as well as analyses of the case including decision making, technical skills and situational awareness.

Lugo shared that the OMFS simulation program is not only popular with OMFS residents and staff, but it has also garnered attention from the California Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (CAOMS) where he has presented the curriculum as a best practice.  He credits the simulation team of Brian Hanlon, simulation center specialist, Vanessa Smith, HealthPATH Internand Kati Maxkenzie, simulation center manager with helping to make this program a success.

“I believe that simulation-based education is an exciting way not only for the individual learner but the organization as a whole to learn and grow,” said Maxkenzie. “Working with the next generation of health care professionals is at the core of what we do, and there is nothing more rewarding than when a learner tells you what they practiced in the simulation center actually happened with a patient and they knew just what to do because of their training.”

For those interested in learning more about partnering with the AHS simulation center, please contact:

For more information on the AHS Division of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery, visit: