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As a first year MBBS student in 2011, eager to learn anatomy from a passionate and competent teacher, I vividly recall stealthily leaving my own dissection table and climbing atop a stool just to get a good view of the dissection demonstration going on for another batch. While this occurrence surely demonstrates my eagerness to learn, it more importantly demonstrates the basic problems plaguing the teaching of Anatomy, one of the most foundational subjects in the study of medicine, which barely gets the respect it deserves. The problems are manifold including the following: 

  1. Widespread usage of bland two/three-dimensional (2D/3D) images in textbooks/lecture halls, which cannot do justice to anatomy, a visual and tactile science
  2. Though ideally hands-on dissection should eclipse the aforementioned problem, the fact remains that in colleges across India, there are inadequate cadavers, with average cadaver: student ratio 1:20 as against the ideal 1:10.[1]
  3. Though not widely discussed and not explicitly stated, it is an unfortunate fact that a considerable proportion of the subject faculty are teachers not by choice, but chance.[2] This aspect often weighs adversely on the quality of teaching.

It was only as a third year MBBS student, struggling to understand the anatomy and mechanics of larynx, that I stumbled upon a resource that had the potential to overcome many of the above-mentioned limitations: 3D simulation anatomy tutorial videos by AnatomyZone, freely available on YouTube![3] I kept wondering why such well-developed material was being neither used nor recommended by the medical faculty in most colleges. 

As a postgraduate in Community Medicine (2018-2021), I kept exploring how such videos were made, until I discovered that such tutorials could be developed using software such as “The BioDigital Human” (New York, United States): an interactive and exhaustive 3D-simulation of the complete human body anatomy with academic details of each structure, providing the following salient features:[4]

  1. Model manipulation: rotating 360 degrees; zooming in/out of body cavities; adding/editing existing labels, descriptions, voiceovers. Hence, faculty can create custom tutorials for use in class or sharing with students
  2. Layer-by-layer dissection in every plane, offering near-perfect simulation of the human body dissection. Can overcome problem of inadequate cadavers as each student can dissect each body part independently while watching a few students perform dissection on real cadaver. 
  3. Isolating each system (including nervous, cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems), enables detailed studying of the course of the various vessels/nerves, muscle attachments and bones
  4. “Radiology view” option makes it indispensable for studying radiology and surgery 
  5. Also, offers working models/simulations of various physiological/biochemical/pathological mechanisms

Thus, this platform has definite utility for anatomy, apart from other subjects too. It can effectively guide students while they dissect independently, with or without faculty guidance. It can also enhance self-directed learning sessions, enabling better visualization as students study anatomy from textbooks/atlases.

As a resident doctor in Community Medicine, I attempted to incorporate this technology in routine community/teaching work as follows: 

  1. Created video tutorials of human reproductive system with labels/descriptions in vernacular language; widely used these in community health education sessions (especially for adolescents)
  2. Trained grass root workers (non-profit sector) to utilize this platform for health/sex education sessions
  3. Demonstrated utility of BioDigital Human in medical education by creating video tutorials for thyroid anatomy while developing integrated teaching module for iodine deficiency disorders (Integration between departments of community medicine, medicine, otorhinolaryngology). 
  4. Demonstrated the platform to the department of anatomy to facilitate its routine usage in college; suggested involvement of departments of surgery and radiology. 

However, during my residency tenure, I could not satisfactorily drive a widespread uptake of this exceptional educational platform for routine T-L purposes. I have since realized that similar platforms/mobile apps are already used in some of the “premier”/ “good” institutes of our country. The COVID pandemic, by shifting medical education online, also undoubtedly made the adaptation of such technologies more prevalent.5 However, usage of such platforms has not yet become mandatory for medical education in India. There is a striking dearth of data regarding exactly what proportion of medical colleges actually use such platforms, and to what extent. Also, with the offline classes having resumed, combined with cynicism of several faculty towards “newer technologies” and “online learning”, it is more likely than not that thousands of medical students across Indian medical colleges, remain deprived of such easily available tools of medical education. Hence, it is imperative to mandate uniform incorporation of such technologies in routine T-L to improve the bare-minimum standards of medical education across India. Each medical student deserves a decent education, irrespective of whether their medical college is a “premier institute” or not, because each medical student is going to deal with lives, irrespective of whether they graduate from a “good” college or not. 

References: 

  1. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/262698082
  2. https://njca.info/article.asp?issn=2277-4025
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3S2dD9BrSY&ab_channel=AnatomyZone
  4. https://www.biodigital.com/
  5. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00276-021-02868-6

These pieces are being published as they have been received – they have not been edited/fact-checked by ThePrint.