Students in the Gross Human Anatomy course try out the virtual reality goggles.

Gross Human Anatomy Enhanced by Virtual Reality

Published July 31, 2019

Advanced technologies are making gross human anatomy — already considered by many doctors the most meaningful course they took in medical school — even better.

“Virtual reality takes learning to the next level.”
Instructor of pathology and anatomical sciences

New Tool Supplements Traditional Lab Work

Along with the traditional cadaver dissections that are the mainstay of gross anatomy courses, UB health sciences students are gaining a new perspective on the human body using virtual reality (VR) tools this summer.

Earlier this month, students taking Gross Human Anatomy donned VR headsets to see how the new tool would supplement their traditional gross anatomy lab work.

“Students can’t be in the cadaver lab all the time,” says Stuart D. Inglis, PhD, instructor of pathology and anatomical sciences. “Virtual reality provides a powerful immersive experience that will help students review the material when they can’t be in the lab.”

Collaborative Effort Takes Advantage of Grant

Inglis says new research is suggesting that students tend to retain material better when VR tools supplement textbook and lab learning.

“Virtual reality takes learning to the next level,” he says. “Our goal is to find out ‘What is the most effective way to use virtual reality to educate our students?’”

The tools are being developed by UB researchers and Buffalo-based Crosswater Digital Media with funding from a SUNY Innovative Instruction Technology Grant.

Medical Breakthroughs Will Benefit Doctors

The UB-Crosswater team is also working on developing immersive medical training tools that can be used to teach new clinical and surgical techniques to medical professionals.

The project is part of a broader, multidisciplinary effort taking shape in UB RISE (Research, Innovation, Structure, Simulation, Education, Engineering) that is underway in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences building, focused on an innovative vision for studying the human body. The approach takes advantage of both hands-on and virtual techniques from advanced imaging to computational methods.

“We are thinking ahead about how technology can increase the understanding of what it takes to be a doctor,” Inglis says.

In addition to Inglis, project team members from the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences include:

Tara Kruse, medical content director, and Armin St. George, chief executive officer, both of Crosswater Digital Media, are also on the project team.