Virtual Reality Lab for medical students opened

Ulm University

Medical students at Ulm University can now explore a three-dimensional heart or enter a virtual intestinal model in a new virtual reality workspace. The “VR Lab” in the surgical ward has now been officially opened by Professor Tobias Böckers, dean of studies for the Medical Faculty.

The heart poses problems for many medical students: they often find it difficult to imagine the exact position of the valves or chambers. Interpreting ultrasound images is also a real challenge for many beginners. “We have made great efforts to teach students how ultrasound beams are guided through an organ, for example – and yet, we often looked into questioning faces,” remembers Dr Wolfgang Öchsner, senior physician in the Department of Cardiac Anaesthesiology.

This gave rise to the idea of developing a 3D heart to support the students in learning the complex structures. Together with Claudia Grab, lecturer for Studies and Teaching in the Medical Faculty, the Competence Centre for eLearning in Medicine Baden-Württemberg and the company Imsimity, the virtual organ was developed step by step – from the 2D learning programme on the Moodle platform to the 3D heart, which students can discover with the help of virtual reality glasses. Not only is it possible to send an ultrasound beam through the organ; users can also, for instance, view the effects of a heart valve defect.

The cyber heart and the new 3D intestinal models have now found a home in the VR Lab. At the official opening ceremony, Dr Alexander Hann (University Hospital, Internal Medicine I Department) presented the intestinal models that he was instrumental in developing. On these models, students can detect chronic diseases or changes such as polyps and tumours, for example. The VR Lab is now open to budding doctors. Under the guidance of tutors, students are encouraged to expand on what they have learned at their own pace.

Text and media contact: Annika Bingmann

Medical student Ahmad Alali tests the VR Lab. (Photo: Uni Ulm)
Users of the new workspace gain more than unexpected insights into the heart. (Photo: Uni Ulm)