Originally published in MOREnetworking Vol. 2 No. 4, Sept. 2005
Saint Louis University’s AIMS distance learning provides close-up view of human anatomy from far away
In the 1966 film Fantastic Voyage, a group of scientists were shrunk to microscopic size in order to explore a human body. While current technology is not yet at the level imagined in the science fiction movie, the journeys available from Saint Louis University’s Adventures in Medicine and Science (AIMS) distance learning program are nevertheless fantastic.
According to Donna Nonnenkamp, Manager of Community Education Outreach and Distance Learning, AIMS was launched in 1991 by the department of Practical Anatomy and Surgical Education in Saint Louis University’s School of Medicine. A youth community outreach program, AIMS provides health and science education information to students and teachers, their offerings include hands-on opportunities, three-dimensional demonstrations, and beginning in 2002, distance learning.
The distance-learning programs are intended for students from elementary school through college, with topics ranging from teen nutrition to an examination of the human heart using actual hearts with pacemakers, bypass grafts and other clinical problems. All presentations are developed and conducted by health care professionals from a broad range of medical specialties.
“We really rely on our volunteers,” Nonnenkamp said, noting that over 100 professionals, including many physicians and PhDs, donate time to AIMS.
In Anatomy of the Human Brain, for example, a medical professional explores the central nervous system using human cadaver specimens in order to demonstrate nervous system anatomy and physiology, synapses and neurotransmitters, protective coverings of the brain, and more. Students also view specimens illustrating various problems such as meningiomas, hydrocephalus and stroke.
AIMS distance learning also provides guided dissection programs. A physician, medical or graduate student guides paired students through dissections of pig hearts, pig eyes or sheep brains and then compares the organs to their human equivalents.
“We’ve received very positive feedback,” Nonnenkamp said. “People are excited because what we offer is so unique.”
North Kansas City High School teacher Susie Helwig agrees. “I thought the AIMS program with long-distance learning was an incredible experience for my students,” Helwig said. “This cutting-edge technology allowed my students to be front and center in the world of human cadaver dissection and inquiry. The students were able to interact with the instructor and were quite amazed with the whole experience.”
The 2005-2006 AIMS schedule includes several new programs, including first-time offerings for elementary students. In A Visit to the Pediatrician, Dr. Kenneth Haller, a noted pediatrician from Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital and Assistant Professor in Pediatrics at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, will explore aspects of a routine pediatric visit. Highlights include a discussion and demonstration of the use of common medical instruments such as reflex hammers, otoscopes and stethoscopes. The doctor will also discuss the importance of immunization and preventative health care. First Aid for Kids, presented in conjunction with the St. Louis Area Chapter of the American Red Cross, introduces students to the First Aid For Children Today (FACT) program to teach basic first aid and safety skills.
“We are really excited about three new distance learning programs as part of the AIMS Virtual Cadaver Demonstrations,” Nonnenkamp said. “The curriculum was developed by Dr. Emily Bantle and funded with a grant from the American Association of Anatomists. The new programs are General Cadaver Demo, Forensic Autopsy Cadaver Demo, and Sports Medicine Cadaver Demo. In each of these programs, students actually participate in an interactive human cadaver demo using videoconferencing. These programs are scheduled on a per request basis.”
“In the future we hope to be able to present actual surgeries,” Nonnenkamp said.
AIMS distance learning delivers programs via videoconferencing using a Polycom 512 over ISDN up to 384 Kbps and soon via IP. For more information about AIMS distance learning, including registration forms and technical requirements, visit pa.slu.edu or contact Donna Nonnenkamp at firstname.lastname@example.org or (314) 535-4000. In an effort to encourage more distance learning opportunities, MOREnet shares content provider contact information with its customers via its public website at www.more.net.
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