UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Integrated virtual and cadaveric dissection laboratories enhance first year medical students’ anatomy experience: a pilot study Darras, Kathryn E; Spouge, Rebecca; Hatala, Rose; Nicolaou, Savvas; Hu, Jeff; Worthington, Anne; Krebs, Claudia; Forster, Bruce B


Background: Radiology integration into medical anatomy courses is well established, but there is a paucity of literature on integrating virtual dissection into cadaveric dissection laboratories. Virtual dissection is the digital dissection of medical images on touchscreen anatomy visualization tables. The purpose of this pilot study was to investigate the feasibility of integrating virtual dissection into a first-year medical cadaver-based anatomy course and to assess students’ overall attitude towards this new technology. Methods: All students in first-year medicine at a single medical school participated in this study (n = 292). Six virtual dissection laboratories, which focused on normal anatomy, were developed and integrated into a cadaver-based anatomy course. The virtual dissection table (VDT) was also integrated into the final anatomy spot exam. Following the course, students completed a short evidence-informed survey which was developed using a theoretical framework for curriculum evaluation. Numerical data were tabulated, and qualitative content analysis was performed on students’ unstructured comments. Results: The survey response rate was 69.2% (n = 202/292). Most (78.7%) students reported that virtual dissection enhanced their understanding of the cadaveric anatomy and the clinical applications of anatomy. Most (73.8%) students also felt that the VDT was an effective use of the laboratory time. Thirteen narrative comments were collected, most of which (61.5%) identified strengths of the curriculum. Conclusions: In this pilot study, students perceived that their learning was enhanced when virtual dissection was combined with a cadaver-based anatomy laboratory. This study demonstrates that there is potential for virtual dissection to augment cadaveric dissection in medical education.

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