Gross anatomy lab gets high-tech makeover  


by Jennifer Kowalewski

While students enjoyed winter break, faculty and staff at OU-COM revamped the gross anatomy lab in Grosvenor Hall 139A, bringing the facility into the digital age with high-quality plasma televisions and pixel-fine video cameras. The improvement amounted to a quantum leap of the lab’s technological infrastructure.

“It’s quite an upgrade from what we had,” says Lawrence Witmer, Ph.D., professor of anatomy. “In some ways, anatomy is the most ancient of the sciences. We wanted to bring our students’ laboratory learning experience of anatomy into the 21st century.”

The college accomplished that with the upgrades in the gross anatomy lab and a smaller anatomy lab in the basement of Grosvenor Hall, Dean Jack Brose, D.O., says, adding he was excited by the new technology. Allen Reed, desktop support manager, explains that prior to 1985, the school had older television monitors and a VHS system in the gross anatomy lab, but those were taken out a year later, being recognizably obsolete even at the time.

“After that, we only had chalkboards in that room,” he says.

The planning phase for the lab’s renovation began in spring 2005, when Witmer talked to Brose about upgrading the technology of the anatomy labs. Reed says designing began over the summer, with installation completed during the winter break. Now, the facility boasts 10 50-inch plasma screens positioned so students at any station can easily see at least one. Staff equipped the lab with five cameras positioned strategically so they can zoom in — at high magnification — on the examination table at any station.

Witmer says all this will enhance learning in the lab. Prior the installation of them, when one station found something of interest, it was difficult and time consuming to share it with the rest of class. These cameras and televisions make it very easy to clearly see anatomy of interest, such as a hip replacement or organ defects.

The room also boasts two digital light processing (DLP) video projectors, a sound system and computer system able to burn DVDs of class sessions.

“Now, we can keep disruptions of the class to a minimum,” he says. “I can show the students something of interest by asking them to look up at the video screen,” rather then having them attempt to crowd around a table to view something. An instructor camera allows faculty to better present prepared lectures and materials, such as X-rays or MRIs, over the plasma televisions.

“Now the lab is a dream setup for teaching,” he says. “I think it’s going to make the gross anatomy lab much more efficient. We’re tremendously excited by taking this lab into the digital age.”

These upgrades also make it possible for instructors to showcase macro- or micro-procedures. Instead of traveling from table to table, the technology allows for procedures to be seen from one station, while the entire class watches via the plasma screens. These can be recorded to be reviewed later or for future classes to view.

“It’s a tremendous innovation,” Brose says. “As an instructor, I frequently would do procedures, such as spinal taps or obtaining bone marrow. I would have to go table to table. I think it’s very exciting to do a demonstration only once. From my standpoint, it is a positive benefit to the college.”

The upgrades to the anatomy lab came on the heels of updating its OMM Lab. The two are linked by video technology so students in the OMM lab learning about certain areas of the body can see the actual body parts in the gross anatomy lab.

Reed says the technology upgrade, including two plasma televisions and a computer system installed in a ground floor lab, cost $115,000, which came from state-allocated funds. Brose says that every two years, the college receives money from the state for educational upgrades.

“We thought this was an excellent use for the money,” Brose says. “This updates the technological quality and capability of medical education here at OU-COM.”

Reed says that the renovation may likely be featured in “Sound & Communications” magazine (

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  Ohio University
College of Osteopathic Medicine
Grosvenor Hall, Athens, Ohio 45701
Last updated: 03/27/2008