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Virtual Anatomy Tool Brings Hands-on Experience to Remote Learning

By Jenna Pizzi

Published on December 9, 2020

Sectra TablesWhile COVID-19 has minimized the number of hands-on learning hours for students, Samson College of Health Sciences has turned to an innovative virtual experience for anatomy courses. In Fall 2020, the college’s Physician Assistant Program began using the Sectra Table virtual interactive anatomy platform from Touch of Life Technologies (TolTech) in Human Anatomy courses twice a week. 

The faculty and students have access to the software on nearly life-size anatomy tables and their electronic devices, where they can dissect and examine cross-sectional anatomy from a variety of angles, as the cadaver can be rotated 360 degrees. 

“Because of COVID-19 we cannot use the tables in person this year, but our faculty and students have been able to supplement with three virtual labs a week, where at each one we dissect a region of the cadaver discussed in the lecture the day before through the instructor’s laptop on Zoom using the VH Dissector technology,” said Deborah Summers, MS, DMSc, PA-C, Vice-Chair and Associate Program Director in the Department of Physician Assistant Studies. Summers co-directs the Human Anatomy course with Joseph Curci, MD, a retired vascular surgeon and anatomist from the University of Pennsylvania.  

Students can then supplement their studies with practice on the same software on their own laptop or tablet. 

Armir Shperdheja“I was able to refer back to the program when studying the information and this was useful in gaining a more in-depth understanding of anatomical structures and their specific features,” said Armir Shperdheja PA’22. “This software helped supplement the hybrid teaching model in various ways. It is very convenient to be able to have access to the program’s various features anywhere you go as long as you have the program installed on your compatible device. The program helps tie together the study of anatomy with pathophysiology and clinical medicine.”

While Shperdheja said the program isn’t a replacement for gross anatomy, he feels it will impact his learning by strengthening his anatomical understanding. 

The technology allows virtual interactions with real bodies so that learners are able to gain a deeper understanding of the structural and functional complexities of the human body. It taps into the National Library of Medicine’s Visible Human Project, a public domain library of cross-sectional cryosection, CT, and MRI images from both a male and female cadaver.

“This technology allows us to continue to provide Samson students with the high-quality educational experiences they expect, while we are in a hybrid learning model due to COVID-19,” said Sinclair Smith, ScD, Dean of Samson College. “We look forward to many more opportunities to utilize this technology both in virtual classrooms and when we return to on-ground instruction.”  The Sectra Tables provide both undergraduate and graduate students at USciences a unique learning experience in applied anatomy.

Other departments in the college are examining the use of the programs. 

The Department of Occupational Therapy plans to use the platform for hands-on work in Neuroscience courses, as it provides an additional resource for students to learn about the brain’s structures and functions, said Nabila Enam, OTD, Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy. 

“It can help students see specific brain structures that are difficult to see in the human brain,” said Dr. Enam. “Sectra table will provide OT students an interactive way to learn the materials.”

Categories: News, Samson College of Health Sciences, Department of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Occupational Therapy, Physician Assistant Studies, Occupational Therapy