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Sacred Heart Greenwich

September 9, 2018

GREENWICH — The process of dissecting organs in biology class conjures up the smell of formaldehyde and the feel of rubbery flesh.

But in one classroom in Greenwich, dissection labs are taking an innovative and new high-tech approach to learning the mysteries of anatomy.

Sacred Heart Greenwich is the first high school in the state to acquire an Anatomage table, according to the manufacturer. The digital teaching tool displays the human body and all of its organs on a long screen that acts as a dissection table. The device and accompanying software provide a “virtual dissection table,” and students have been carrying out procedures on a three-dimensional “digital cadaver.”

During a recent session with the Anatomage, biology and science teacher Amy Dillane walked a group of students through the device’s many features, which are activated with a swipe of the finger.

“Go ahead, take the skin off,” Dillane told a student, and as she completed the swipe, the image on the table switched from a corpse to a mass of organs and tissue

Another finger tap brought up the “annotation mode,” in which all of the major arteries in the abdominal area are highlighted and named. A subsequent swipe across the table showed a cross section of the body. One student selected a virtual dissection tool and made an incision in the chest area. “Draw your line to where you want to cut,” Dillane told the student, and her “incision” slowly became visible.

Sacred Heart senior Meredith Wilson said the device has given her a new appreciation for anatomy and opened up the possibility of engaging in a career in the life sciences.

“It’s definitely useful to have this interactive aspect, instead of learning from a textbook, or a one-dimensional source,” said Wilson, whose enthusiasm for anatomy helped inspire the school’s acquisition of the modern device. She said the digital dissection table was giving her a much more “realistic” view of what lies beneath the flesh, and what a medical career could be like.

Nia Foster, another senior, has been working on the cadaver of a dog that is also available on the Anatomage device. “I’ve always been interested in veterinary school, and this will help me get the basics. It will take me further than I thought,” she said.

The school’s acquisition of the Anatomage table, at a cost of about $70,000, aims to reinforce the school’s science curriculum. New initiatives in astronomy and computer programming have also been introduced this new school year, said the Head of School at Sacred Heart, Pamela Juan Hayes.

“Science is a very important program here, we have a big emphasis on women in science. We thought this would be a great teaching tool,” Hayes said.

Mary Musalino, a science teacher and director of the Science Research Program at the private school, said the Anatomage had a lot to offer.

“After we researched it, we decided it would be a perfect fit for us - a lot of our students are interested in medical research,” she said, “It’s easy to go from one body system to another - muscular, digestive, nerves. And there’s a world of possibilities - any of the medical related fields, it’s supportive of that.”

Dillane, who teaches the advanced anatomy and physiology course, said the device could work with students at different levels of ability — “It’s user-friendly, but it’s complex as well.” The school is looking to invite specialists to lecture on various medical topics in coming months.

The anatomy table has already been inspiring enthusiasm among students, she said. “They’re really fascinated and excited by it. In a real dissection, it’s a lot messier, and it can be hard to see. ... This allows them to think critically and learn the basics,” she said. “It brings your classroom to life.”

rmarchant@greenwichtime.com

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