Down to the Bone


By Denise Spranger

[Story and Videos]

Imagine a giant, 7-foot iPad. Now imagine an app of the human body. With the touch of a finger, a layer of muscle appears, then the veins, then the heart. Zoom in. Rotate. Explore.
Tap again, and you can see right down to the bone.
Dr. Dean Smith and Kelsey Venis explore the layers of Anatomage.

Dr. Dean Smith and Kelsey Venis explore the layers of Anatomage.

New to the department of kinesiology and health (KNH), Anatomage is a virtual dissection table that displays 3-D images of human anatomy with stunning detail in a multitude of layers, views, and perspectives.

“It’s mind-boggling,” says clinical faculty member Dean Smith MS ’99 PhD ’04. “One of the most difficult challenges for students of anatomy is to visualize a 3-D representation of the body. Anatomage opens a window to that perception.”

Having access to this breakthrough technology is giving Miami undergraduates an unusual opportunity.

“This instrument provides a learning tool rarely available to undergrads outside of medical schools,” Smith notes. “At this time, the College of Education, Health and Society has the only Anatomage table in Ohio.”

One of its primary tools is a virtual scalpel that allows users to cut various layers of body tissues, study the organs, and create segments that can be rotated and enlarged. By selecting a range of anatomical networks, such as the lymph and cardiovascular systems, students deepen their understanding of the complex relationships that form our inner ecology.

As part of an independent study research project with Smith, junior Kelsey Venis, a kinesiology major, is investigating the value of Anatomage as a learning tool in comparison to traditional PowerPoints, textbooks, and lectures.

“I appreciate the chance to discover how students learn,” Venis says. “I chose Miami partly because of its focus on undergraduates, and I think it’s an important part of Miami’s goal to find the ways to teach undergraduates most effectively.”

One of the first steps in her research is to explore the table’s capabilities. Venis has enjoyed learning alongside her professors and KNH Chair Helaine Alessio. “It makes me feel elevated from the position of a student to someone who is incorporated into the new things happening within the department.”

Since the addition of Anatomage, discussions are under way to develop new courses for KNH students, expanding current anatomy classes primarily targeted toward neuromusculoskeletal structures to study internal organs as well.

Smith also envisions the potential that Anatomage presents for non-KNH majors. Beyond biology students, he suggests that speech pathology majors might study the inner workings of the ear while zoology majors may explore the table’s animal-anatomy options.

“I see Anatomage expanding the wealth of knowledge on campus,” Smith says. “And we’re excited that Miami undergrads have access to this technology at its forefront.” 

(See Anatomage in action in the video below this article.)

Dr. Brett Massie and student examine METIman.

Dr. Brett Massie and student examine METIman.


In a lab two floors below Anatomage, a “man” lies on a gurney. His chest rises and falls with every breath. Beside him, an EKG monitor displays the spiked line of his heart rate. As his eyes begin to blink, he asks for a glass of water.

The human-like form lying on the table is no ordinary man, yet he’s no ordinary mannequin either. Developed by CAE Healthcare, METIman is a life-size patient simulator that allows students to practice crucial skills that, in some cases, could save a life.

“The great thing about METIman is his capacity to provide us with real-time physiology,” says Brett Massie ’87, director of the athletic training program and clinical faculty member.

Although students role-play emergency situations with each other as “athletic trainers and patients,” real humans cannot mimic key symptoms such as changes in pulse, blood pressure, heart rate, and pupil reaction. METIman can — thanks to a wireless router in his chest that communicates with a software-enabled workstation.

Massie demonstrates by passing a penlight across METIman’s left eye. The pupil constricts and dilates with the movement. “Right now, he is programmed to respond as a healthy person would,” Massie says, “but if we change the preset to a head injury, we might see a pupil that is no longer reacting.”

A senior majoring in athletic training, Cody Costanzo performs chest compressions on METIman. He checks the EKG to measure his effect, and decides to add more pressure.

“He’s our Bionic Man,” says Costanzo, smiling. “He responds like a patient might in the real world.”

“The ability of METIman to respond is of enormous value as a learning tool,” Massie says. “If a student provides incorrect treatment, he or she could ultimately ‘lose the patient’ through cardiac arrest or other life-threatening issues. The beauty of it, of course, is that the patient is only a simulator. No human life is at risk.”

To reinforce the lessons learned, Massie is videotaping student sessions with the simulator. Much like the athletes who study film footage to gauge why a quarterback’s pass fell short, students gain insight on how to improve vital skills.

It is rare that undergraduates in non-nursing or EMT programs have the opportunity to work with innovative technology like the simulator, Massie says. The patient simulator is also new to KNH this academic year.

In the near future, METIman will don his Miami hockey uniform (size XXX) to help students master the art of teamwork with athletic trainers and EMTs at local workshops. He may also pitch in at exercise physiology classes.

“Anatomage and METIman bring the human body to life,” says Alessio, department chair. “They make deep learning both fun and memorable. That’s a perfect combination for gaining knowledge.”

(Watch the METIman video at the bottom of this page.)

Anatomage New to KNH this academic year, the Anatomage table offers a unique, life-size virtual dissection table with an unprecedented realistic visualization of 3D anatomy and interactivity. Clinical Professor Dean Smith notes that at this time, EHS has the only Anatomage table in Ohio.


Read this article on Miami University's alumni site.