WesternU anatomy lab goes virtual

Written by Nicholas Bumacod

First year dental students at Western University of Health Sciences College of Dental Medicine (CDM) will now have the opportunity to experience gross anatomy lab in a whole new way – through virtual technology. At the newly created J and K Virtual Reality Learning Center (VRLC), CDM students will be able to dissect the human body through four virtual modalities. The first is through the Anatomage Virtual Dissection Table which enables students to dissect the human body on a table like surface and peel through various layers of the body with the touch of a finger. The dissections that occur on the table are simultaneously being displayed on large HDTV displays in the room so that others may experience the dissection without having to be directly next to the table.

Other high-tech tools include the zSPACE 3D projection monitors. Through the combination of stereoscopic monitors, 3D glasses, and an electronic stylus, a student is able to manipulate a hologram-like body in space. It’s like watching a movie in 3D except that when you move your head, the body part you’re viewing also moves relative to the direction you travel, enabling full emersion in the study of anatomy. The Oculus Rift system is another device used in the VRLC. Typically used for immersive gaming, this virtual reality immersion technology enables the wearer to shrink to a microscopic size and take a guided tour through various regions of the body. Finally, iPads are deployed with fusion.tech software to further enhance the study of anatomy.

Getting to use these virtual learning modalities first hand was an awesome experience. It’s great to see health education catch up with modern technology. Personally, I found the zSPACE system to be the most engaging way to learn anatomy in a whole new way. While few things can substitute the experience of dissecting an actual cadaver, the ease of use of these new tools, their immersive nature, and their ability to provide high quality prosections at the flick of a finger all without having to smell like formaldehyde, are a huge boon to the future healthcare provider. Without a doubt VRLC’s like the one at WesternU will transform from being the rare to the norm in the near future and I’m excited to see the continued transformation of dental education across the nation.

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