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Human Anatomy in the Digital Age

Posted on Wednesday, October 09, 2013

More than 15 years after Dr. Jeremy Cushman '96 and Professor of Biology Jim Ryan met, they have teamed up to create a highly interactive digital textbook, iAnatomy.

Designed with funding from a Mellon Presidential Discretionary Grant for Innovative Digital Pedagogies, iAnatomy is an eBook comprised of 20 case-based, interactive exercises that reinforce human anatomy and physiology concepts while engaging readers with the clinical relevance of anatomical details.

In May, Cushman got a call from Ryan, who served as Cushman's honors adviser at HWS, and the two of them got coffee to discuss the project.

"Jim had received a grant to get iPads to teach anatomy in a lab," Cushman says. "He already had a very good framework and we took that and modified and enhanced it."

Cushman is an associate professor of emergency medicine at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry where he practices as a board certified emergency physician. His primary responsibility, however, is as the medical director for Monroe County and the City of Rochester where he oversees the regional emergency medical services system.

"Jeremy brings a great deal of clinical knowledge to the case studies teaching modules," says Ryan. "Jeremy was able to tell me how a physician would actually solve the case and what information would be needed for the students to solve the cases."

Cushman says, "This book articulates what an emergency physician does every day-assessing a complaint, identifying anatomically affected structures, and diagnosing. That's what we're trying to get our students to do: use their knowledge of anatomy to identify the underlying injury or illness."

iAnatomy complements traditional human anatomy texts by bridging the gap between anatomical concepts and clinical applications. Each simulated clinical case begins with a patient's symptoms and poses a series of detailed questions challenging the reader to correctly diagnosis the case while simultaneously reinforcing anatomical concepts. Cases are provided with interactive imagery, including CT and MRI scans, radiographs, and movie clips to aid in the diagnosis. Each case also provides a quantitative exercise for readers to hone their statistical skills.

"I had a working version of iAnatomy already produced, that I had tested in my anatomy class last year," Ryan says, "but it lacked important components like actual MRI scans or x-rays of patients. Jeremy provided those images/movies and he and I both edited the working version into a well-crafted final version that has many interactive elements."

Emily Kellogg '13, who is currently a student at SUNY Upstate Medical University, used Ryan's initial version of the text and is now looking at the results of Ryan and Cushman's collaboration. "It will help the students start to see what it's like to think like a doctor," Kellogg says. "We look at CTs and MRIs almost exactly the same way in my radiology class. I think having the doctor's report of the radiographic studies is great too, because students can guess what they think it is, and then get confirmation. This will allow them to start to think about what to be looking for when they look at these tests."

In addition to preparing the ebook, Ryan also created a 21-part series of instructional podcasts in which he takes listeners step-by-step through the process of creating a digital publication using Apple's iBooks Author. Ryan has provided that series to the Colleges' Digital Learning Center and it is available to the campus community.

The photo above features Dr. Jeremy Cushman '96 talking to a group of students in Coxe Hall.

 


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