Medical students at a growing number of colleges are using virtual reality platforms to augment or replace cadaver labs, providing students with more opportunities to practice skills while saving universities hundreds of thousands of dollars.
According to a survey by the American Association of Anatomists, the nation’s 150 medical schools average about 149 hours of training in first-year gross anatomy, about two-thirds of which is spent with cadaver dissection.
“Cadavers provide a realistic experience for students, but they cause concerns with biohazards, availability, and expense,” said Daniel Buchbinder, professor and chief of the division of maxillofacial surgery in the department of otolaryngology at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in New York.
In response, some medical schools are beginning to leverage virtual reality platforms, which professors say can also provide very realistic experiences without the costs or other downsides of using real cadavers.
Robert Hasel, associate dean of Simulation, Immersion and Digital Learning at the Western University of Health Sciences (WesternU), a private medical school located in Pomona, Calif., has been a proponent of virtual reality for medical training for many years.
“I’ve long been on a mission to make learning as exciting as playing video games, and I’ve been working toward that for years,” said Hasel. “But the technology that was needed to pull this all together has really just fully emerged in the last couple of years.”