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Retired professor’s respiratory physiology app catching on

Posted: Tuesday, April 02, 2013 · Volume: XLVI · Issue: 7

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A.P. “Pete” Shepherd, Ph.D., retired in 2009 as a professor of physiology at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Here he holds one of his inventions, the AVOXimeter, the most widely used oximeter in cardiac catheterization labs. Click on photo for a larger view.
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A.P. “Pete” Shepherd, Ph.D., retired in 2009 as a professor of physiology at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Here he holds one of his inventions, the AVOXimeter, the most widely used oximeter in cardiac catheterization labs. Click on photo for a larger view.clear graphic

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A.P. “Pete” Shepherd, Ph.D., a retired professor of physiology at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, collaborating with another former employee, Michael Martinez, has developed an iPad app for teaching an important principle in respiratory physiology — the factors that affect the composition of alveolar gas.

During breathing, oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged between the air and bloodstream through tiny sacs in the lungs called alveoli. The concentrations of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the lungs — the alveolar gas — are important clinical parameters in patients on respirators and those with cardiac and lung problems. A mathematical equation using several variables is used to compute alveolar gas.

Dr. Shepherd’s app, “Alveolar Gas,” simplifies this process by placing it at the fingertips of students and educators — and busy health professionals — through their iPads.

How it works
Using the app, a student or instructor can manipulate variables such as the volume of air per breath, breathing frequency and the oxygen consumption rate to see how they affect alveolar PO2 and PCO2 (the concentration of oxygen and carbon dioxide, expressed as their partial pressures). The app is suitable for use either as a classroom demonstration or self-instruction.

The new iPad app, “Alveolar Gas,” features a worksheet function that can be used to manipulate variables to better understand the composition of  the air in the lungs, such as the volume of air per breath, breathing frequency and the oxygen consumption rate. The worksheet function also can be turned off so that it can be used as an alveolar gas calculator. Click on image for a larger view.
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The new iPad app, “Alveolar Gas,” features a worksheet function that can be used to manipulate variables to better understand the composition of the air in the lungs, such as the volume of air per breath, breathing frequency and the oxygen consumption rate. The worksheet function also can be turned off so that it can be used as an alveolar gas calculator. Click on image for a larger view. clear graphic

 

“This app could also be helpful to practicing health professionals,” Dr. Shepherd added. “They can turn off the teaching function and just use it as a handy calculator.” In addition to students studying respiratory physiology, health professionals who have found his app useful include residents in anesthesiology and pulmonary medicine, respiratory therapists and nurse anesthetists.

The app is avaialble for a nominal fee through the App Store.

Converting teaching tools for new technology
While he was at UT Health Science Center, Dr. Shepherd and his colleagues developed a series of computer programs that were used by medical, dental, nursing and graduate students in the various courses he taught. Now that he is retired, he does not want to see his teaching programs go to waste, so one of his hobbies is updating his old programs and enabling them to run in the latest Mac and Windows operating systems. He then donates them to the American Physiological Society's archive of free, peer-reviewed teaching materials. Converting them to apps and making them available in Apple's app store, however, gives them much greater exposure. Although the “Alveolar Gas” app “was released only recently, it is already being used at leading universities and hospitals in dozens of countries around the world.

Co-inventor of AVOXimeter
In addition to serving on the faculty for 35 years, Dr. Shepherd was one of the founders of Avox Systems Inc., a local manufacturer of medical electronic devices, including the AVOXimeter which is the most widely used oximeter in cardiac catheterization labs. The San Antonio Business Journal honored him in 2008 with the Healthcare Hero Award, and in 2010, Dr. Shepherd and his co-inventor, Dr. John Steinke, received the Chancellor's Entrepreneurship and Innovation Award.

When asked why he thought his app had been so successful, Dr. Shepherd said, "I didn't realize it, but my app is riding a technology wave. Many medical schools and residency programs are equipping their trainees with iPads, and my app happened to be released at just the right time. It's great to be teaching physiology again even if it's by remote control."

 
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