SPOKANE, Wash. — Medical students at Washington State University in Spokane are using virtual reality to become familiar with the human body.
Nick Randall is a second year medical student at Washington State University in Spokane.
His goal is to either become an hematologist that treats patients with blood conditions or an oncologist that works with cancer patients.
"I can just reach in here with my controller and pull things out and manipulate them and look inside," said Randall as he demonstrated on a monitor.
As a student with the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, he often works with virtual reality.
"Right now in class we are working on neuroanatomy so I can pull up cranial nerves that appear right in front of me," he said.
The simulation in particular he uses allows students to learn where human organs and structures are inside the human body, in comparison to other structures.
"Everything is labeled here so I do not have to wait for a professor to come tell me if I am unsure on something, you know I am looking through the book I can't find anything," he said. "Here, I just point --- okay, well that is the trachea, that's the manubrium."
Years ago, the only way to have an experience like this was by working with a cadaver.
"Using a cadaver requires just a lot of preparation, you have to be physically in a lab and you obviously have to have a cadaver donor," said Randall. "There are differences," he continued. "The feeling of holding a tool, of making an incision, of pulling apart something. I greatly enjoy the cadaver lab, I think it gave me a great appreciation for medicine and for anatomy but, I can definitely see the benefit of VR anatomy as well."
However, that doesn't mean learning in the real world is going away.
"We are committed to having our students train first in a simulated environment, while they are learning in a clinical environment under close supervision," said Dr. Joshua Jacobs, professor and chair of the Department Of Medical Education and Clinical Sciences the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine at WSU Spokane.
However, virtual reality is just another tool that is changing the world of medicine.
Sometimes it is even combined with real life environment scenarios, creating what is called "augmented reality."
"So, for guiding surgery," said Jacobs. "That's very complicated and precise. Or guiding radiation oncology treatment, cancer treatments," he continued.
Randall is in for very long future of education, and in the meantime, he is doing what he can to get ahead.
"It's great to see that our school is just jumping on the train so early so I can get that benefit of studying in VR," he said.