OSCODA – The new semester at Alpena Community College (ACC) will also feature some new, interactive technology for those attending a variety of classes. Although it will be geared more toward medical students, the offering can also be used in biology and other courses.
An Anatomage Table – a 3-D anatomy visualization training component for students – has made its way to the ACC Alpena Campus. And, while it will appear in a slightly different format than the table version, the associated software is also available through a digital system at the Oscoda Campus.
In each case, students are able to view real images of the human body on a large screen, which they can zoom in on, “dissect” and study from all angles imaginable, both internally and externally.
Acquired through a Strengthening Institutions Program (SIP) Grant from the United States Department of Education-Office of Postsecondary Education, the $90,000 addition was fully funded and required no match from ACC.
This publication was given a sneak preview of the new technology on Jan. 5, as several ACC instructors and administrators began learning the ins and outs of the program at the Oscoda Campus. It came just in time for the 2021 spring semester, which kicked off this Monday.
The demonstration was led by Terry McKenzie, simulation lab manager for the nursing department at ACC.
He said that the college has always had a cadaver for certain lessons; however, one issue is that this is very expensive to maintain. “And through our anatomy and physiology instructors, they slowly dissect that body and peel back the layers and try to expose things the best they can, to preserve them for instruction. That doesn’t always work out perfect.”
With Anatomage, though, students can observe either a male or female version and study any of the anatomy. “We can take it layer by layer, and then the great part is we can put it all back together and start over for the next course,” McKenzie said.
“And in this instance, we have actual people that have had radiograph imaging done of every inch of their body, and translated into this program,” he explained.
He noted that while cadavers are a good learning opportunity, modern technology has provided even better opportunities now, and the college saw a need to address this. “So, with some of the grants that we were able to procure, an Anatomage Table was one of them that we came up with.”
A faculty member remarked that when he audited all the prerequisites for the nursing program, he found that the cadaver room wasn’t greatly utilized. And even when it was, the students were hesitant to get involved. So, he feels that the Anatomage will be more engaging.
McKenzie agreed that the cadaver room – which is rather small and very dark and cold – is not really not a conducive learning environment.
But this is not the case with the Anatomage system.
McKenzie said the table format of this at the main campus allows students to stand over the “individual” during their lessons, just as one would expect to see a person laying on a table.
“And then we have the software built into this laptop, so we can utilize it on the outsourcing areas,” he said of the version in Oscoda, which features two, upright screens that can depict the same images. “And that image can be manipulated in any direction that you wanted to, to see it – any aspect of the body, from every angle.”
For the instruction, McKenzie used a male, known only as Carl. Beyond this, there is no other background, as far as the person’s age or why they are deceased.
When using the technology, there are different icons which can be selected to perform a plethora of functions.
“So when we initiate this tab, it will continue to remove layers as we work our way down, transversely, throughout the body,” McKenzie said, while demonstrating the layering tab.
He also pointed out as an example that, if an anatomy class was working on the muscular system, a great feature of the program is it allows the students to click on any item and it will give the name of that particular muscle. “It will do that for every structure of the body, even down into the lymphatic and vascular system, in terms of naming parts. So, for functional use from that aspect, I see that it’s real valuable.”
As McKenzie continued with the layering function, he showed how the different muscles began to disappear, revealing the skeletal structures.
Attendees were then able to view the abdominal cavity, as well as the vascular system.
“You might notice that what we’re seeing here is just veins and arteries. And if you look below, there is another tab here; another arrow,” McKenzie described. “This arrow, purposely, has a factory setting so that it’s only going to display the vascular system. So it’s getting rid of the nervous system or the nerves, as well as the lymphatic system, just because it really clutters things up.”
He then showed how students and teachers can advance this, if they did decide to go more in-depth. “So now we’ve brought into play the nervous system. And then you can see the lymphatic system.”
When observing the gross anatomy, McKenzie said he thinks people can appreciate this particular function, and used an example of looking at the heart.
He explained that these can be layered differently to show students everything, descending the order, right down to the main circumflex artery on the heart. “Everything is there that you would want to be able to see.”
He went on to show the various methods which can be used to single out a particular area of interest. For example, a simple click of the mouse can remove the skeletal and muscular systems from the screen, leaving only the internal organs.
He also gave a peak into the cardiovascular system and described how to minimize the arteries, showcasing just the heart.
McKenzie shared that he is still learning about the Anatomage technology, and the three main areas which he has explored includes the high resolution gross anatomy. “Say for example today, we’re going to concentrate on the hand and the arm. It will give you a really good resolution of that individual picture.”
He said he’s also learned about the high resolution regional anatomy, which takes each individual structure of the body and essentially gives a blown up picture of same. “And then that’s where we can do a cross-section of it, and we can basically enter in through that organ and see all the different fibers and the intricate components of each individual organ.”
Histology is another area, and McKenzie advised that this is very detailed, as it goes through every cell component of every organ.
If participants click on the histology option, it gives all the different cell types, be it differentiating cardiac cells, exploring those within the endocrine system and so on. “Everything is right there and it gives you those slides of that. And those are actual cell slides of the individual that we’re viewing, whether it’s the male or female version of it.”
McKenzie said that the large snapshot of the heart has probably been his favorite to observe so far. “This is where you can manipulate the model, or the actual heart, in any direction.”
He said that what the audience was viewing was exactly like a reconstructed version of a CAT scan or an MRI, where they’re going right through it, but there’s no color contrast. “It’s all real, live pictures.”
One of the instructors asked if this can be projected through the school’s remote learning Webex system, so that the students can be at home and watch the teacher go through these processes, which McKenzie confirmed.
Going back to the heart image, “We can manipulate this any way we want to,” he continued. “We can turn it, we can see the descending aorta, the aortic arch – we can see everything we want to here.”
He then demonstrated how to select a cross-sectional plane of the image, and the audience was able to look at the top portion of the heart. “So we can turn this and look at the atrium. And so what this lets us do is, we can look in there; we can see the vales.”
Using what is referred to as the carousel button, he showed how to bring back into the picture the section that he had cut away.
“It’s exactly what we would see with a CT, when we’re bringing it back through there. So we bring it back, we can see the mini ventricles, we can see the Purkinje fibers that are dangling around down there; I mean, all of that anatomy is right there for us,” McKenzie said.
“And then we can always add the veins, the vessels, whatever it is that you want to. And you can see where that really shows a good picture of the coronary arteries, and then you start getting into the big aorta there,” he went on.
McKenzie shared some skeletal images, as well, noting that this would be great for anatomy students as they learn about such structures as the hands and feet, which have an intricate amount of bones. “Every little bone in that structure, for whatever lecture that might be, is right there for you.”
When displaying an image of a hand/arm, McKenzie was able to remove the muscular system and the connective tissue. He focused just on the hand, showing how the bone can be moved in all types of directions on the screen.
One of the ACC instructors noted that this is so detailed, that even the marrow can be seen.
“You can see the different channels in there. It’s just incredible, as to what we can see and do with it,” McKenzie agreed.
Since this can be projected to students at home, one of the teachers questioned whether the students can interact with this, from distance learning.
McKenzie said it is interactive only from whoever’s running the tablet, or on the actual Anatomage Table itself. Once the table arrives at the Oscoda Campus, it becomes interactive for everybody.
He concluded his presentation by circling around again to the gross anatomy and showcasing the scalpel tool, which participants can utilize to make “cuts” at different planes.
“If we go back to the option to cut this patient, if you will, or to dissect them, we can select this option,” he said. “And then we can enter. Anybody whose ever seen an MRI – this is a colorful, 3-D MRI right there.”
McKenzie pointed out that the new technology has been really fun to work with and learn from, and that there are even different quizzes for the instructors.
One teacher commented that this would be useful with the individual organs, if one wanted to cut at a certain angle to see a very specific structure.
As for other faculty feedback, although the instructors will still have to familiarize themselves with Anatomage – and it may take some time to integrate it into nursing lesson plans – they all agreed that this will be a great asset.
Among the possibilities with this new equipment, they noted such items as lessons on disease processes. For instance, if teaching students about hepatitis, the liver could be shown. If exploring cardiac issues and how certain problems actually occur, they can display the vascular network which surrounds the heart.
One instructor also noted that the histology feature will be nice when explaining to students what to keep an eye out for when they go into the lab and look through the microscope.
Further, Anatomage will be useful for pre-lab activities, so students can see what they’re looking for on a real person. This way, they’ll know what to expect when they’re getting into their dissections or their clinicals.
As McKenzie was showing the heart during the demo, one teacher asked if he could bring up just the coronary arteries, which he did. The instructor pointed out that this will really help in teaching the systemic and pulmonary circuits, as well.
Another remarked that the technology should do very well in the physiology classes, since it has some animations with it. For example, it can animate the nerve impulse going from the brain to whatever effector organ it has.
While the plan is to bring an Anatomage Table to ACC’s Oscoda Campus in the near future, faculty are already pleased with the existing setup. It displays all of the same images, only it is done so on either the school’s Webex screens or a projection screen. It is controlled by the user via a laptop, which will remain at the Oscoda site.
“The nice thing about this, is it’s portable. We can have it in all the classrooms,” elaborated Chris Young, assistant to the director of the ACC Oscoda Campus.
Therefore, all the anatomy, physiology, nursing and biology instructors can implement this during their lessons without having to worry about class scheduling conflicts, as the larger Anatomage Table can’t easily be moved from room to room.
Director of the SIP Grant for ACC, Amanda Sumerix, said the table was delivered to the main campus this past November.
The college was awarded a five-year, $2.25 million SIP Grant in 2019, which she notes is being used to fund different departments throughout ACC. Part of this was the $90,000 for the Anatomage Table, which also included the software, as well as the laptop for the digital system being used for now in Oscoda.
The spring semester is the first time this technology will be utilized for any ACC courses.
Sumerix said that if the funding is available, the hope is to get a table for the Oscoda Campus next year, even if it’s a bit of a scaled-down version from that which exists in Alpena.
As noted on the ACC website, the SIP grant secured by the college is one of only three projects awarded in Michigan, and one of only 63 issued nationally.
For more information on the programs and other offerings at ACC, visit discover.alpenacc.edu, call the Oscoda Campus at 358-7295 or reach those at the Alpena Campus by dialing 356-9021.