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NUS Medicine School uses virtual reality to enhance learning of human anatomy

NUS Medicine School uses virtual reality to enhance learning of human anatomy

In Singapore, by the Centre for Healthcare Simulation
(CHS) at NUS
Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine
(NUS Medicine) recently
launched
a computer-simulated human anatomy system to facilitate the
learning and teaching of human anatomy.

Established in in 1905, the NUS Medicine is the first
institution of higher learning in Singapore and the genesis of the National University of
Singapore
(NUS). It admits 300 students to its degree programme
annually and its principal missions are to educate and train the next
generation of healthcare professionals, and foster research that will help to
advance the practice of medicine.
The launch of the computer-simulated human anatomy system is a good example of
how NUS Medicine is leveraging technology to provide quality education to its
students.

In
addition to prosection classes, where students study and work with cadavers
that have already been dissected by experts, many students also attend the
elective whole body dissection course. This provides opportunities for students
to gain hands-on experience in cadaveric dissection. Now, this learning is
enhanced when the students experience the cutting-edge virtual simulation
technology of the computer-simulated
human anatomy system system.

Credit: NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine

Called the Virtual Interactive Human Anatomy (VIHA), the
system allows students to gain hands-on experience working with human cadavers
and also manipulate finely detailed, computer-generated, three-dimensional
renditions of the human body and its parts.  The system supplements and
complements the traditional anatomy classes that are so essential and
fundamental to medical studies.

Moving
from studying actual physical specimens to examining virtually simulated
versions in an interactive lab, and switching again to human cadavers allows
students to gain a deeper and fuller understanding of the intricate
relationships among the various body structures.

“VIHA
allows students to navigate the human anatomy at their own pace, reviewing and
reinforcing complex spatial relationships of anatomical structures like
muscles, bones, nerves, arteries, veins and organs. Animation of joint
movements has also been incorporated to highlight muscle actions in producing
certain movements. This helps students with visualisation and gives them a
better understanding of the connection between the various structures,”
explained Centre Director Associate Professor Suresh Pillai. Professor Pillai is
also Senior Consultant at the Department of Emergency Medicine, National
University Hospital. He added that this bridges the gap between textbook
learning and dissection in an anatomy hall.

Credit: NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine

Using
Virtual Reality (VR) headsets and hand-held controllers, they are transported
to a virtual dissection hall where they can perform localised or regional
dissection on a virtual human cadaver to reveal underlying structures, layer by
layer. The system’s software enables students to manipulate and mobilise joints
and muscles, peel back layers of skin and tissue and peer into deeper
structures like organs, blood vessels, nerves and bones. Each move can be
reversed and repeated until students gain a good grasp of the relationships
among the various body structures – an achievement that is not possible with a
real cadaver.

The
combination of hands-on training and virtual reality experience takes the
teaching of Human Anatomy to a whole new level. Head of NUS
Anatomy
 Associate Professor S T Dheen said that the blending of
hands-on training with virtual reality experience has elevated the teaching of
human anatomy to a whole new level. 

“Traditionally,
human anatomy is taught through cadaveric dissection and use of anatomical
models and prosected specimens in medical education…Although there is no
substitute for cadaveric dissection in learning human anatomy, incorporating recent
technological advancements like VIHA in pedagogy certainly enhances the
learning process and transforms the learning environment,” said Associate
Professor S T Dheen.

VIHA
training is currently available for first and second year NUS Medicine
students, while those from Year 3 onwards will be introduced to VIHA training
progressively, with more advanced features including more interactive
animation, clinical pathology and self-directed questions. There are also plans
to extend VIHA to nursing and postgraduate students, and potentially surgical
residents for pre-operative surgery planning and rehearsal of procedures, as
well as to introduce more complex training scenarios, such as an emergency in a
hospital ward or a mass casualty incident.

More
complex interactive training scenarios will also be introduced in the coming
months: the Centre is developing the Virtual Interactive Simulation Environment
(VISE), a 3D virtual environment platform that will create life-like scenarios,
such as a hospital ward emergency or a mass casualty incident. These scenarios
will immerse students in challenging virtual environments, where they will
learn to work as teams to manage patients, applying clinical knowledge and
skills that they have learned.

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