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LINDSAY is an online virtual human that enhances learning for medical students.
Michael Grondin/the Gauntlet

Virtual human revolutionizes learning

Researchers develop LINDSAY, an interactive medical education tool

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Medical students at the University of Calgary have a new virtual tool to help with their studies. Researchers have developed a virtual human named LINDSAY that will give students a three-dimensional anatomical view of the human body to compliment textbook learning.

The tool was named after U of C medical student Lindsay Leigh Kimmett who died in a car crash in 2008. The tool uses new technologies, like touch interfaces, to navigate the many cells and systems found within the human body.

U of C faculty of science professor Christian Jacob began developing LINDSAY in fall 2008 when he was approached by associate dean of undergraduate medical education Bruce Wright.

Jacob said the university wanted to create a tool that would make medical school more interactive, so they began working on LINDSAY to aid in studies.

“Once you bring it to life it becomes much more interesting and of course much more interesting for students,” said Jacob.

LINDSAY is currently available as desktop and mobile versions and can be customized to the specific needs of medical students. Jacob and his team are currently integrating physiological features into the interface. Current prototypes illustrate blood circulation and oxygenation.

Assistant professor of cell biology and anatomy Heather 
Jamniczky has been using the desktop version of LINDSAY in her lectures. She said the technology has given her students a realistic representation of human anatomy that has garnered a lot of positive feedback from students.

“We teach with cadaver specimens, so [students] go in the lab,” said Jamniczky. “But you look at the picture and you look at the body on the table and it is totally different. At least this way they get a much better sense of what it would look like.”

Jamniczky said that LINDSAY is not meant to replace laboratory work, but to enhance learning in the classroom.

“There’s a real gap between textbook anatomy and what students see in real life — the LINDSAY software connects the dots between the classroom and real life,” said Jamniczky. “Students have been really enthusiastic and it seems to improve their ability to make the connections. It pulls everything in and provides a much more engaging learning experience.”

The integration of LINDSAY can also expand beyond the classroom. Jacob foresees LINDSAY as a potential educational tool for patients because it allows users to pinpoint parts in the anatomical system. Capabilities to upload personalized data are currently being discussed.

“We are already working on some integration with CT scans,” said Jacob.

Ten undergraduate students are helping develop LINDSAY over the summer. The faculties of medicine and science played the largest role in its development.

Jacob also encourages students in all disciplines to participate in the tool’s development.

“We are always looking for students that are interested in working with us. It can be in any capacity. It can be as an undergraduate student,” said Jacob. “We need people from very different areas.”

Wright hopes this tool will revolutionize medical education, according to UToday on July 17, 2012.

“In five years from now, I want LINDSAY to be a one-stop shop where students can learn all aspects of the anatomy and physiology,” said Wright. “This isn’t just a tool to be used in medical school. It’s part of our vision to go beyond the practice of medicine and into other subjects. The software is dynamic and robust and can be set up anywhere learning needs to happen.”

A high school in Cochrane has also used the software in a biology class.

The tool will be available as an application for smartphones and tablets in the future. They anticipate it will be fully available later this year.

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