Last week, the UNLV School of Medicine education team had the opportunity to see a demonstration of a new virtual anatomy learning system, technology that will replace traditional anatomy education as part of our innovative curriculum.
Virtual anatomy means teaching students with images of real bodies created by CT or MRI scans. These techniques along with physical examination, ultrasound, and regular x-rays are how patients are evaluated.
Two of the companies we're evaluating use what are called "tables" to teach students anatomy. In reality, they are online computer programs seen on a large screen monitor.
The Department of Physical Therapy also is considering this technology, and many thanks to physical therapy professor
for organizing last week's meeting with one of the companies we're considering. The demonstration was amazing and I can't wait for our students to begin using this new learning technology.
How Virtual Anatomy Works
Virtual anatomy "tables" are computer screens with images of a male and female body obtained from CT and MRI scans and loaded as complete human forms into a system. Students can then take apart the image in layers as you would a dissection or just remove everything down to muscles, then remove each muscle independently to see what is underneath. You also can remove tissue down to bone, leaving the nerves and arteries in place. It is amazing to view the body in a three-dimensional way and from all angles to see how things fit together. Another plus, is that we can program which diseases we want the students to learn about, such as a heart attack or aneurysm.
Traditionally, medical students learn about the human body through gross anatomy, which involves the dissection of a human body and often marks the rite of passage for new medical students. Gowns, masks and the smell of embalming fluid often are the hallmarks for a medical student's first day at medical school -- another 180 hours follow that are spent dissecting blood vessels, nerves, and ligaments trying to remember what attaches to what.
I was one of those medical students who didn't learn much from all those hours in the anatomy laboratory. Some students learned a lot, while others like me, couldn't convert a flat dissection into a three-dimensional understanding of how the body fits together. There were a few reasons why I couldn't remember it. First, I was assigned to work with a group of four students, and only two of us did the work. I was so busy doing the dissection, trying to find the muscles with their blood and nerve supplies, that I often missed the big picture. For me there was no connection between the cadavers we dissected to the specific diseases we needed to learn about.
I became a pathologist and the bodies I later worked on were not embalmed and looked entirely different. The techniques for determining the cause of death and diseases also were different.
I actually learned most of my anatomy from pictures in the famous Atlas of Human Anatomy by Frank Netter, and from listening to my husband as we drove back and forth to school and work.
It is truly amazing how much technology has changed. To learn more please view these two