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High technology revolutionizes HSC anatomy education

Posted on Wednesday, November 16, 2011 · Volume: XLIV · Issue: 23


Kristine Vogel, Ph.D., Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Department of Cellular and Structural Biology, demonstrates the use of clay models to teach early development of the embryo and placenta. James Mazzucca of Cellular and Structural Biology videos the clay model, the purple object in Dr. Vogel’s hand, which is magnified on the teaching screens located around the anatomy lab.
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Kristine Vogel, Ph.D., Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Department of Cellular and Structural Biology, demonstrates the use of clay models to teach early development of the embryo and placenta. James Mazzucca of Cellular and Structural Biology videos the clay model, the purple object in Dr. Vogel’s hand, which is magnified on the teaching screens located around the anatomy lab.clear graphic

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Contact: Will Sansom, 210-567-2579

SAN ANTONIO (Nov. 15, 2011) — For more than 40 years, aspiring physicians, dentists and other health professionals have learned anatomy — the structures of the human body and the language of medicine — in laboratories dedicated for that purpose at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio.

In this environment, students dissect the preserved cadavers of persons who have donated their bodies to science. Thanks to this gift, students learn to identify normal and diseased anatomic structures. They will carry this knowledge with them through their careers, touching the lives of thousands of patients. Anatomy instruction is an essential element of health science education.

New approaches to learning
Today’s information technology is revolutionizing the instruction of anatomy, supplementing lab experiences with high-definition, readily accessible instructional tools to help students more thoroughly perfect their knowledge of the human form.

On Nov. 2, anatomy teachers from the Department of Cellular and Structural Biology at the Health Science Center discussed many of the innovative anatomy teaching programs and showed off state-of-the-art technology for dozens of guests, including members of the Health Science Center Executive Committee.


(From left) Ken Andrews, Ph.D., John Garcia, James Mazzucca, David Hotchkiss and Shawn McClelland stand under one of the 58-inch plasma teaching screens in the anatomy labs. Dr. Andrews, Garcia and Hotchkiss are members of Academic Technology Services, a division of Information Management & Services (IMS). Mazzucca is supervisor of anatomical materials in the Department of Cellular and Structural Biology. McClelland is a member of the IMS Division of Information Management Client Support Services.
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(From left) Ken Andrews, Ph.D., John Garcia, James Mazzucca, David Hotchkiss and Shawn McClelland stand under one of the 58-inch plasma teaching screens in the anatomy labs. Dr. Andrews, Garcia and Hotchkiss are members of Academic Technology Services, a division of Information Management & Services (IMS). Mazzucca is supervisor of anatomical materials in the Department of Cellular and Structural Biology. McClelland is a member of the IMS Division of Information Management Client Support Services.clear graphic

 

The technology was made possible by grants from the Ewing Halsell Foundation, the AT&T Foundation and the Health Science Center. The Department of Facilities Management renovated the labs and the Division of Academic Technology Services installed high-definition equipment to help make these instructional advances possible.

From apps to art classes
Thanks to innovative teaching projects — many powered by new technology — health professional students are now able to:
  • Access study images and virtual anatomy quizzes with an iPod Touch® App (developer/instructor: Omid Rahimi, Ph.D.)
  • Sift through interactive and adaptable databases of thousands of study questions based on clinical vignettes (developers/instructors: Mary Vaughan, Ph.D., and Linda Johnson, Ph.D.)
  • Assemble a 3-D skull from its component parts on the computer (developer/instructor: Frank Weaker, Ph.D.)
  • Study the 12 cranial nerves that stretch from the skull to target organs, also using 3-D, interactive computer software (developer/instructor: Dr. Weaker)
  • Learn how an embryo develops by watching, on large screens, while a professor demonstrates the dynamic process in clay models (instructor: Kristine Vogel, Ph.D.)
  • Review histological images on a virtual microscope instead of setting up smears and slides at a microscope (developers: Dr. Weaker, Thomas King, Ph.D., and Nan Clare, M.D.)
  • Attend a class with UT San Antonio and St. Mary’s Hall art students where all create anatomical drawings of plastinated (preserved) hands and feet (leader/instructor: Charleen Moore, Ph.D.)
  • Learn about the history of anatomy, through a senior-year elective that includes a visit to Italy (leader/instructor: Dr. Moore)
  • View instructional dissection videos produced in high definition and made available as streaming video podcasts (developer/instructor: Vick Williams, M.D., Ph.D.)
Self-directed, active learning
“These innovative programs were developed by Health Science Center faculty members, all of whom have been recognized by The University of Texas System as Distinguished Teaching Professors,” said Christi Walter, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Cellular and Structural Biology. “These devoted teachers are moving students toward self-directed and active learning, which all health professionals will need to do throughout their careers.”

Cellular and structural biology professors are dedicated to teaching a collective 4,500 contact hours in anatomy courses every year to students in the School of Medicine, Dental School and School of Health Professions, Dr. Walter said.

3-D puzzles, magnified demonstrations
The innovative teaching projects are “gee-whiz” endeavors. Dr. Weaker’s 3-D interactive skull software allows students to assemble and disassemble bones like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. Students are able to move bones, rotate them 360 degrees and take online quizzes. A related software project, a cranial nerve and vascular study guide, enables students to follow and virtually rotate vasculature and the path of each of the 12 cranial nerves as they emerge from the brain and pass through the skull toward various organs and structures. Students may then quiz themselves on what they’ve learned.

Dr. Vaughan’s interactive CD of anatomic X-rays allows students, who once burned the midnight oil at the lab, to study more conveniently at home. Dr. Rahimi’s iPod Touch® App brings the flexibility of study to handheld devices.

Teaching magnified on plasma screens
Twenty-eight newly installed plasma screens give opportunity for greater instruction in the four labs. These 58-inch-wide screens around the perimeter of the labs allow students to view magnifications of what is being demonstrated at a teaching table. Each lab is equipped with a high-definition camera that broadcasts wirelessly to plasma screens in one, two or a combination of labs. Plasma screens are interfaced with computers and ceiling-mounted speakers, enabling faculty and students to have a rich, unique and one-of-a-kind learning environment.

The art of medicine
Not everything is about technology, however. Anatomy instruction also is an art, as demonstrated by the Art and Anatomy Workshop, during which medical students sit down with art students and together create drawings of anatomy. “You can’t tell which drawings are by art students and which ones are by medical students,” Dr. Moore said.

The workshop consists of three sessions. During the first session, participants create drawings of plastinated hands and feet. During the second, they draw each other’s faces, concentrating on the facial muscles and their actions in different expressions. During the third, held in the Health Science Center Briscoe Library’s rare books collection, they study how artists throughout the centuries have represented the human body.

Developing observation skills
“These types of programs help medical students increase their ability to detect details and through this develop diagnostic skills for identifying disease,” Dr. Moore said. “But they can also help students develop humanistic sensitivities and provide an outlet for expression of the emotional aspects of dealing with disease and mortality.”

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The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, one of the country’s leading health sciences universities, ranks in the top 3 percent of all institutions worldwide receiving federal funding. Research and other sponsored program activity totaled $228 million in fiscal year 2010. The university’s schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have produced approximately 26,000 graduates. The $744 million operating budget supports eight campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. For more information on the many ways “We make lives better®,” visit www.uthscsa.edu.

 
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