Mayo Clinic’s Frozen Section Breaks Ground at Simulation Center

Traditionally, Mayo Clinic's Simulation Center is used for surgical procedures and teaching students how to run a code. Mayo Clinic Pathology Consultant Karen Fritchie, M.D., recently developed a new and innovative way to use the center.

Together with Program Manager Carrie Bowler and Pathologist's Assistant Erica Reed, Dr. Fritchie created a frozen section workshop in the Simulation Center for fellows to experience working on frozen sections efficiently, which recognizes how stressful the work can be when done in a "real" setting. Mayo Clinic Vice Chair of Anatomic Pathology Education Joseph Maleszewski, M.D., said the idea is "really smart and novel."

This is the first time Surgical Pathology has used the Simulation Center.

The pilot of this simulation focused on breast cancer cases and sentinel lymph node specimens, as, according to Dr. Fritchie, these case are "typically complex, requiring evaluation of multiple surgical margins."

The Frozen Section breast practice at Mayo Clinic is unique, and most of the fellows in the program are external, meaning it can take them weeks to months before they are comfortable in the laboratory, managing complex diagnoses, learning multiple surgical procedures, and communicating with the team.

"In order to increase the fellows’ comfort at the lab, decrease the time it takes them to adjust to our practice, and improve overall patient care, we are introducing a sink simulation pilot this year. Our hope is that the new fellows will begin to learn how to multitask and manage complex cases in a safe environment," Dr. Fritchie explained. "Our goal was to create a safe learning environment for trainees to learn the skills of how to approach the specimen, the prioritization of the specimens, and the communication needed in order to effectively and efficiently move specimens forward for optimal patient care."

Currently, fellows rotate through a 30-minute simulation followed by a 30-minute debriefing/reflection session with staff before their first rotation at the Frozen Section laboratory. Dr. Fritchie and staff hope to expand this program to include multiple scenarios for different organ systems and eventually include residents.

"This work would not be possible without Erica Reed and Carrie Bowler, as well as the staff at the Simulation Center, who have been integral in designing and orchestrating this simulation pilot," she said.

Molly Dee

Molly Larsen is the Web Content Coordinator at Mayo ClinicLaboratories. She is responsible for internal and external communications pertaining to the website and information technology, as well as editing content on She has worked at Mayo Clinic since 2015. Outside of work, Molly enjoys working out, reading, Harry Potter trivia, and spending time with her family and friends, including Seamus, the labrador/mastiff puppy.