Young scientists sit in on mock knee replacement surgery

Anoka-Hennepin District 11 hosted a special Young Scientist Roundtable event Jan. 30 at Coon Rapids High School.

Students gasp as Dr. Allan Hunt, an orthopedic surgeon, performs knee replacement surgery on saw bone models during a special Young Scientist Roundtable event at Coon Rapids High School Jan. 30.
Students gasp as Dr. Allan Hunt, an orthopedic surgeon, performs knee replacement surgery on saw bone models during a special Young Scientist Roundtable event at Coon Rapids High School Jan. 30.Photo by Olivia Koester

More than 200 people packed the auditorium to listen to Dr. Allan Hunt of Twin Cities Orthopedics give a presentation titled “Orthopedics and Sports Medicine.”

Young Scientist Roundtable events are always geared toward students of all ages, K-12. But after the main presentation, Hunt performed knee replacement surgery on saw bone models meant to engage teenagers specifically.

During his presentation, Hunt took students inside real-life knee and rotator cuff surgeries.

He explained what he was doing as video rolled so students could get a taste of what life as an orthopedic surgeon is like.

Students seemed less interested in the everyday than they were in the exceptional: Has a patient ever woken up during surgery? How old was the oldest person on whom you’ve operated? Have you ever failed?

It is not uncommon for patients to drift in and out of consciousness during surgeries, which can last anywhere from three minutes to an entire day, Hunt told an attentive audience.

He’s operated on babies and he performed hip surgery on a 102-year-old woman who was still living at home, driving, gardening and cheating at cards, according to Hunt.

“Failed is not in my vocabulary,” though some surgeries have not gone as well as he hoped, Hunt said.

Many students who attended the lecture aspire to break into the medical field someday.

Megan Ritchie, a junior at Andover High School, is one of them.

She’s exploring different career options in medicine and thinks she may want to pursue a career in pediatrics, oncology or both.

Sisters Kelly, a junior at CRHS, and Anika Besst, a seventh-grade student at Coon Rapids Middle School, are figuring out what they might want to do someday, too. Kelly is interested in medicine, possibly physical therapy, but Anika isn’t sure yet.

All three of them said they really enjoyed the videos Hunt showed. Kelly was amazed that there was no blood during the surgeries.

Hunt told students considering a career as a surgeon what traits may make them successful.

To be a good surgeon, one has to be able to stand the sight of blood. Fitness and dexterity are important, too, he said.

Video game skills come in handy during surgery, Hunt said. “For all you budding orthopedic surgeons out there, keep playing,” he said.

After a cookie break, the auditorium was transformed into an operating room as Hunt and two assistants prepped saw bone models for knee replacement surgery.

The bones looked very real; the insides were even pink, as they are in real bones.

Hunt and his assistants began to chip away at the bones with their tools, explaining what they were doing as two giant video screens projected the process for people in the back of the auditorium.

Students’ eyes were glued to what was happening in the front of the room.

“The mission, really, of Young Scientist Roundtable is to interest students and to show them that science is everywhere,” Young Scientist Roundtable Committee Member Charlene Barghini said.

The Young Scientist Roundtable program is managed by Wayzata Public Schools Community Education, but involves students from throughout Twin Cities suburbs.

Young Scientist Roundtable events are almost always hosted at Wayzata Central Middle School, 305 Vicksburg Lane, Plymouth, but Jackson Middle School in Champlin hosted an event several years ago.

The next Young Scientist Roundtable event is scheduled for March 3 at Wayzata Central Middle School. Dr. Russell Palma will present “Relics of the Early Solar System – Comets and Interplanetary Dust.”

For more information about Young Scientist Roundtable, visit

Olivia Koester is at