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Virtual dissection table provides ‘cutting’ edge in SPC medical courses
LEVELLAND – South Plains College recently enhanced its medical education courses through the purchase of a state-of-the-art virtual dissection table. The Anatomage Table allows students enrolled in Human Anatomy and Physiology the opportunity to gain hands-on experience without the use of cadavers.
“Ninety percent of colleges use plastic models to simulate the human body,” said Jeremy Nicholson, assistant professor of Biology. “In Texas, South Plains College is the first two-year college to own this new technology.”
The dissection table was purchased through a grant from The CH Foundation and South Plains College Development office. The CH Foundation strives to make an impact on human services, cultural and educational opportunities for the residents of West Texas.
According to Nicholson, each semester as many as 600 students enroll in a Human Anatomy and Physiology course at SPC. Human Anatomy and Physiology is a common pre-requisite for nursing and various allied health programs. It is the cornerstone of medical education training for careers in the healthcare industry. Students currently enrolled in the course are taking full advantage of the new table, he said.
The Anatomage Table is an operating table-sized LCD touch screen that is used to perform a life-sized virtual cadaver dissection. This cutting edge technology allows instructors to offer students a more dynamic and interactive education. The table comes equipped with a full body gross anatomy model rendered from the most sophisticated three-dimensional scans. Additionally, it can open any data from CT, MRI or ultrasound scanners. Nicholson said the software can be expanded and updated to include hospital emergency cases, pathology cases, and even routine medical exams.
The use of cadaver dissection in a Gross Anatomy course is the most ideal way to learn human anatomy, said Nicholson. Cadavers are limited to medical school and large teaching hospitals. However, the table now helps instructors to teach students using cadaver dissection without the use of an actual cadaver.
Students are able to cut the body, manipulate tissues and remove organs for examination – all with a touch of their fingers. Unlike an actual dissection, students can redo the dissection as many times as they wish. With this system, students will be better equipped to succeed in any allied health program, he said.
“It’s really difficult to teach Human Anatomy when we have been using cats, pigs and frogs in the lab,” he said. “Often the organs would be in different places, and smaller than they are in humans.”
In the new environment, around a dozen people can stand around the table and get a bird’s eye view of an actual dissection. There are usually around 26 students in each section of Human Anatomy and Physiology. The table already has made a tremendous impact on the students, Nicholson said.
The table currently is kept and used in facilities already present in the SPC Biology Department. Nicholson said that since the unit is mobile, it could be used in other labs or classrooms at some point.