(TNS) – The future of medical education looms in the corner of a small classroom at Battle Ground High School.
Reminiscent of the infamous monoliths from “2001: A Space Odyssey”, the anatomy table is a new technology that allows students to perform virtual dissections and view detailed analyzes of cadavers and various organs.
“This thing is crazy,” said health science teacher Tracee Godfrey. “It’s smarter than me, I swear.”
Nearly seven feet tall when propped up vertically, the device’s touchscreen can be used to take a close look at actual body scans that have been donated to science. Students can see the different layers of human anatomy, from the maze-like nervous system to the skeleton. Since the scans are of real bodies, they present a much more realistic variation in health than the overly perfect visualizations of the human body that are often used in classes.
Not only that, but the device has scans of individual organs that can be animated, displaying what our heart looks like, for example, when we’re resting versus when we’re exercising.
Using a smaller device called a pulse oximeter, the students took a visiting reporter’s heart rate and set the heart on the screen to beat at the same speed to better visualize.
“It helps us think about what our body is telling us,” Godfrey said. “In his case, his heart rate is 93 beats per minute, which makes me think he’s nervous, or maybe he’s had too much coffee.”
The latter was probably the case.
Battle Ground Public Schools purchased two anatomy tables in July 2020 to support vocational and technical students in advanced health sciences, animal sciences, and forensic sciences at high schools in Battle Ground and the Meadows.
Prior to this year, Godfrey said the advanced health science career path struggled to attract interested students. Since the table was introduced at the start of this school year, however, students are already saying it has helped transform both their passion for and understanding of the field.
“Before taking this course, I knew next to nothing,” said sophomore Gigi Slaton-Benson. “I didn’t even know about the program a few years ago.”
Slaton-Benson’s mother works as a postpartum nurse. Since diving into the program, Slaton-Benson’s understanding and fascination with her mother’s work has exploded.
“It’s so interesting to me, I want to get into it,” she said.
Holding a plastic model of the heart and comparing it to the detail of the LCD screen, Godfrey jokes that it’s no wonder the level of learning has seen such change day and night.
In addition to the table, the classroom gained several other mannequins and hospital beds to allow health science students to simulate various medical situations and emergencies. On a normal day, students cycle through the stations
“Even if they don’t go to medical school, they will still be able to figure out if something is wrong with themselves or with a family member,” Godfrey said, pointing to the group of students who had become busy discussing the health of a virtual kidney on screen.
Many students in Godfrey’s class are part of a group called Health Occupations Students of America, or HOSA, for short. As a club, students create posters that raise awareness of specific conditions or illnesses and sometimes participate in community benefits like blood drives.
“The most important thing we do is inform,” said sophomore Gabriela Garcia. “We’re still kids, but we’ve worked with colleges on our interests. It supports all types of medical interests.”
As word spreads of the program contributions provided by the anatomy table, Godfrey hopes enrollment in his class and similar programs will increase.
“They know how to use technology better than me, it’s humbling,” she said. “But it provides a very easily viewable app. You can see the light bulbs go off in their heads.”
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