3-D imaging is giving students, educators and health care professionals a detailed new way to look at the human body.
In 1986, the United States National Library of Medicine (NLM) began planning for a future in which digital images would be distributed over high-speed computer networks. Because NLM believed that electronic images would become an important part of medicine, they wanted to build a digital image library to complement their bibliographic database. From those plans came the Visible Human Project.
The complete data set for the Visible Human Male was made available in November 1994. The Visible Human Female data set was released one year later. The data sets are now being applied to a wide range of uses, including education, diagnosis, treatment, virtual reality, art, mathematics and industry. More than 1,400 licensees in 42 countries are now using them.
According to the NLM, the long-term goal of the Visible Human Project is "to transparently link the print library of the functional-physiological knowledge with the image library of structural-- anatomical knowledge into one unified resource of health information."
This information will be useful in the education of career and technical students who will someday be working in labs or operating equipment that is used for diagnostic purposes or treatment in health procedures.
To take the project from just data and transform it into an effective tool to be used by the educational community, the National Library of Medicine has turned to several universities for dissemination.
From Data to Knowledge
To take the Visible Human Project from the state of data to knowledge applications, the NLM awarded Next Generation Internet contracts to the University of Michigan, the University of Colorado and Stanford University.
The Next Generation Internet production system in development at the University of Michigan includes a comprehensive set of interactive 2-D and 3D VH browsers with arbitrary 2-D cutting and 3-D visualizations. One group participating as a test bed stakeholder in the project is the University of Michigan Nursing School statewide educational network, which should help measure its effectiveness from a standpoint of career and technical education. Clearly, though, a better understanding of human anatomy can benefit any student, educator or worker in a healthrelated field.
Stanford University is exploring several different approaches to teaching anatomy with the Visible Human datasets and plans to develop and integrate them into the "Anatomy Workbench" as part of its NLM contract.
Exploring the Virtual Human
At the University of Colorado's Center for Human Simulation, development is underway on a new anatomical study tool. The Explorable Virtual Human (EVH) project is being funded through a grant from the National Library of Medicine. Using the National Library of Medicine's Visible Human Data (VHD) set as its source, the EVH will be a system for creating and displaying the inner workings of the human body.
The Center is developing a pilot curriculum using the EVH and based on the "Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education" from the American Association for Higher
Education. These principles are:
1. Encourage student-faculty contact
2. Encourage cooperation among students.
3. Encourage active learning.
4. Give prompt feedback.
5. Emphasize time on task.
6. Communicate high expectations.
7. Respect diverse talents and ways of learning.
The problem-based learning approach is designed to address the student's acquisition of anatomy knowledge, but it will also address the student's ability to integrate and apply the knowledge to human case studies.
The curriculum is also designed to promote interactive learning and to provide appropriate learning …