It was supposed to be just another pretend exam to help train medical students. But this one proved to be anything but typical.
University of Virginia medical student Ryan Jones was performing what was supposed to be a pretend examination on Jim Malloy. (Medical schools commonly employ actors who pretend to have symptoms for students to diagnose.)
This one got real, real quick. When Jones began conducting the physical exam, he found that Malloy's real-life symptoms matched the pretend malady he was claiming to have ― an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). An AAA isn't life threatening if found before it ruptures, according to the National Institutes of Health. But less than 80 percent of people survive a ruptured abdominal aneurysm.
Jones spoke to Yahoo News via email about the incident, which took place in March of last year. He said he knew immediately that something was amiss. "During the physical exam, when I first discovered the aneurysm, I took a step back because of how surprised I was to find it (knowing that it is a serious condition)."
Jones continued, " I was surprised to encounter that on the exam and I was surprised that (in my mind) UVA was allowing him to volunteer for that particular role when he had a genuine AAA. It wasn't until six months later that I learned he and UVA had no prior knowledge of the AAA."
Malloy had no knowledge, either. Jones told Yahoo News, "He had a AAA at high enough risk of rupture to warrant a procedure. For that reason, his acting role was an extraordinary coincidence."
CBS News reported that Malloy had surgery to remove the aneurysm in August and recovered.
Despite making the possibly life-saving discovery, Jones remains humble. He told Yahoo News, "I would like to emphasize that, to me, I feel that I simply did the job that UVA trained me to do. There are countless medical students around the country who deserve as much or more credit for working hard to learn and at the same time help patients."
Jones is now in his fourth year of medical school and is currently interviewing at residency programs in radiation oncology.
Follow Mike Krumboltz on Twitter at @mikekrumboltz.