Computerized table provides virtual cadaver for LBCC students

When faculty members told Kristina Holton, dean of Linn-Benton Community College’s Science, Engineering and Math division, that they needed a $70,000 computerized table, they didn’t expect to actually get one.

But Holton likes to support her teachers so they can “be awesome” for their students, she said.

So she made it happen.

Schools have found it increasingly difficult to obtain cadavers for anatomy classes, but LBCC’s Albany campus procured an Anatomage Anatomy Table – or “virtual cadaver” – in December to fill that need. Donors and teachers were invited to see it in action March 19, at the end of the winter quarter.

Holton is proud that LBCC  is the only community college in Oregon to have one.

Baylee Santana makes a selection for details on the scan of a cadaver. Photo by Sarah Brown

 Baylee Santana, a pre-nursing student from Lebanon, said she and her classmates have dissected sheep brains and hearts, but it’s not as helpful since it’s not human anatomy.

“We look at textbooks and we see pictures of stuff, but it’s not like the real human body; so (the Anatomage table) gives us a chance to see that,” Santana said.

The table is basically a large computer with two touch screen monitors, and uses scans of real cadavers to reveal every system of the body. Users can select a body and essentially “peel” layers off.

They can see every organ, every vein, and any tissue slide they want. They can flip the body around, zoom in, see cross sections, view diagnostic imaging, and see animations of blood flow.

“It’s amazing it’s all contained in one table,” said Allison Hurst, a pre-nursing student from Sweet Home. “When I was playing with it, I found that it had a video going down into the trachea. I just thought that was so cool; like, you can actually see all the way down into the tertiary bronchi.”

LBCC has struggled to obtain real cadavers for its science programs, not to mention the $7,000-plus price tag associated with getting a body, transporting it and preparing it, Holton said. Even if the college could get a cadaver, it’s a recurring cost for something that is used up after one or two uses.

INSTRUCTOR Charlene LaRoux turns over the scan of a mummy while her students and school staff see how it’s done. Photo by Sarah Brown

“In reality, you get one cut. If you’re going to do something, you get one shot at it, whereas here, there is the ‘undo’ button,” she said. “They’ve been playing at a disadvantage for the last several years, not having an actual cadaver.”

After surveying teachers in her division, Holton was convinced the Anatomage table would be beneficial, and then she learned there was money available for that type of equipment through the Ann and Doug Brodie Science Program Endowment fund.

Using the fund as one source, Holton penciled in money from other sources until she realized that buying the table would be possible. When she told her faculty, they were shocked, she said.

Charlene LaRoux, anatomy and physiology teacher, immediately started “playing” with the new table during winter break. Not only is she learning how to use the program, but she’s seeing the benefits beyond the table.

Real cadavers aren’t always useful for some students, and can intimidate them, she said. Plus there’s an exposure to chemicals that can affect people.

At first, LaRoux started creating all sorts of fancy worksheets from the Anatomage table to instruct her students, but those quickly went out the window, she said.

“The real benefit of this is students actually getting to interact with it and explore it,” she said. “It’s from doing, not just listening to me talk.”

Although the table is primarily for anatomy and physiology students, Holton envisions bringing in other divisions who could benefit from it. In fact, the software includes scans of hundreds of animals, and scans of mummies. There’s even a scan of a crocodile mummy.

So both veterinary and anthropology students could use the table, as could criminology students because there’s a scan of a gunshot wound to the head. It has even been suggested that perhaps LBCC could invite the medical community and medical students outside of the college to use it, too.

“I don’t even ‘get it’ all, because it’s not my area. I don’t even really understand the full capacity,” Holton said. “But to hear the students, hear what they love about it, it’s totally worth it.”