"We have a living laboratory here in the middle of a busy, high-quality regional hospital," Park said. "There's a huge opportunity for simulation-based learning in the broader health-care system, and our aim is to be at the leading edge of that."

SAIL will also feature an "innovation" center, where Park and his staff hope to help private industry develop and test medical devices — like the 24 on which he owns patents.

The faux hernia operation, meanwhile, is a glimpse into how SAIL's sim technology will spark a chain reaction of learning.

Having just completed an interview, Park forgets to don his surgical cap before entering the faux operating room. He's met with the glare of five nurses stationed there.

"When you get started on one of these things, everyone — and I mean everyone — believes from the get-go that the experience is real," he said, laughing as he put on the headgear and gets to work.

A million dollars' worth of Klieg lights beam down as the nurses, clad in blue scrubs, pull back the cloth cover on a mannequin known at Meti-Man. They administer anesthesia and monitor vital signs. Park slides dedicated cables into the open trocars, one bearing a tiny light, another a tiny camera lens, the third a tiny mechanical clamp.

He works his magic, watching on a 4-foot-wide high-definition screen as the clamps grip and maneuver the mesh — a stand-in for the stuff used in minimally invasive surgery to replace weakened tissue in the abdomen. Staffers found it, 5 cents to the yard, at a Michaels crafts store.

Human anatomy is so complex that technology still falls far short of replicating it, Park says, which means sim professionals must be good rummagers.

"Here's a bit of heart, and here's an esophagus," says Ivan George, the facility director, tossing two rubber slabs on a table to illustrate. "I found these plastic pieces. They have close to the right properties for stitching."

The hernia procedure is one of the simpler ones SAIL can stage. Depending on the clientele and the project, staff can set up tracheal intubations, live births, amputations and breathing crises, working up or down to the level of expertise needed.

There's also a control room next door from which staffers can trigger emergencies — sudden excessive bleeding, smoke from an electrical fire and more — and test a team's capacity to respond.

"One anesthesiologist wouldn't talk to me for three weeks" after he pulled such a stunt, George says, laughing. "It's all part of improving the skills needed in delivering health care."

Margaret Saul, a veteran nurse and the clinical director for operating-room procedures in the building, stands in during this day's operation as "RN circulator," the nurse who monitors what goes on in the OR.

Over the years, Saul has borrowed used stuff to improvise crude models of patients, operating tables and the like to help train students and staff.

It's the first time she has seen this facility in action, and as Park works his tiny tools, her eyes go wide above her surgical mask.

"I'm amazed at how realistic this is," she said later. "My mind is spinning as I think of all the ways this is going to help us deliver effective health care. I'm proud to be a part of this."

The center will be used for other purposes, including hosting teleconferences and offering demos for schoolchildren, and eventually serving as a place where surgeons can warm up for procedures they're about to perform.

As a matter of fact, on this day Park has five minutes to make his way upstairs, where he's scheduled to perform just this surgery on a living, breathing human.

"I wish I could stay longer, but I've got to go operate on a real patient," he says, pulling off his gloves and handing them to a nurse. "And I'm ready to get started."