Thursday, October 31, 2019

Simulations transport medical students inside human organs

Michael Francis, Ph.D., assistant professor of physiology and cell biology at the USA College of Medicine, uses VR goggles to view volumetric reconstructions of lung tissue in his lab located in the Medical Sciences Building.
Wearing virtual reality (VR) goggles, medical students at the University of South Alabama are able to develop a deeper understanding of pulmonary anatomy by exploring the anatomical subtlety of the living body, an opportunity that is not possible with conventional techniques.

Michael Francis, Ph.D., assistant professor of physiology and cell biology at the USA College of Medicine, recently began integrating the use of virtual reality during the respiratory module taught to second-year medical students. Originally, diagrams and static snapshots of chest radiographs were used to teach the subject, but by using VR, they can now interact with computed tomography (CT) scans as 3D structures. This unique method allows students to actively view and dissect patient anatomy, without removing it, from any position.

So far, nearly 50 faculty, medical and graduate students have participated in this technique and have provided nothing but positive feedback.

A typical lesson consists of using Syglass visualization system and loading images from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) imaging database into VR. With this technique, the patient’s anatomy is revealed as a 3D composite of CT images. Then, a graduate student who works in Francis’s lab, Jennifer Knighten, maneuvers the view and slices plane while another student shares the same virtual space from a different computer. That virtual space is projected on the overhead for the rest of the medical students, who are not participating in the VR experience, to see. “This allows us to point out and discuss key anatomical structures of the pulmonary anatomy,” Francis said. “We then slice through the axial, sagittal, and coronal planes of the body using images from contrast-labeled computed tomography scans to highlight the pulmonary circulation.”

This approach to teaching pulmonary anatomy is being used to augment the anatomical knowledge the students have already gained. “Our aim is to use the novelty of VR and its ability to reveal real life, intact patient anatomy to solidify this knowledge in a unique way,” said Francis.

Osama Abdul-Rahim, M.D., assistant professor of radiology at the USA College of Medicine and an interventional radiologist with USA Health, was among one of the faculty members testing out the VR system. “The VR system opens up many doors as a new educational tool for medical trainees – from medical students to residents and fellows,” he said. “Learning anatomy is an integral part of medical training, and this system allows one to immerse themselves into the body at a scale and with a method not previously seen. It also makes learning this material fun, which promotes further learning and better ability to retain the information.”

According to Rahim, this new educational tool is only scratching the surface and he is excited to see what Francis and his team are able to accomplish in the world of medical education. “As they continue to refine the product and as technology improves, the potential uses are vast and will likely find their way into clinical practice,” he said.

Department of Surgery to host Frazer/Leigh Memorial Lecture

Starmila Dissanaike, M.D., F.A.C.S., Professor and Peter C. Canizaro Chair of the department of surgery at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, will present two upcoming CME-accredited lectures.

Both lectures are open to the public and are made possible through the Emmett B. Frazer, M.D., F.A.C.S., and Milton M. Leigh, M.D., F.A.C.S. Endowed Memorial Endowments at the University of South Alabama department of surgery.

Dissanaike, who is the assistant medical director at the Timothy J. Harnar Burn Center in Lubbock, Texas, will present her first lecture, “Paradigm Shifts in How We Handle the Physician Burnout Crisis” on Thursday, Nov. 7, at 4:30 p.m. in the USA Health University Hospital second floor conference room.

On Friday, Nov. 8, at 7 a.m., in the University Hospital second floor conference room, she will also present the grand rounds lecture, “What’s New in the Management of Necrotizing Soft Tissue Infections?”

Dissanaike earned her medical degree from the University of Sydney in Australia and completed residency training in general surgery at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. She completed a trauma surgical critical care fellowship at the University of Washington. She is board certified in general surgery and surgical critical care.

This annual memorial lectureship honors the legacies of Drs. Emmett B. Frazer and Milton M. Leigh as leaders in clinical service and graduate surgical education in Mobile.

For more information, contact the USA department of surgery at (251) 445-8230.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Macaluso examines federal efforts on tick-borne diseases

Kevin Macaluso, Ph.D., chair of microbiology and immunology, and graduate student Hanna Laukaitis work in the Laboratory of Infectious Diseases.  
Kevin R. Macaluso, Ph.D., the Locke Distinguished Chair of Microbiology and Immunology at the USA College of Medicine, has been appointed to a 14-member national panel tasked with providing subject matter expertise, review of federal efforts for all tick-borne diseases and examination of research priorities for the federal government.

The Tick-Borne Disease Working Group, where Macaluso serves, was established by Congress in 2016 as part of the 21st Century Cures Act. It focuses on the development of a report to the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services and Congress on the findings and any recommendations of the group for the federal response to tick-borne disease prevention, treatment and research, and how to address gaps in those areas.

Tick-borne diseases are a serious public health problem. Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease, but there are at least 20 different infections that are transmitted by ticks in the United States. According to the CDC, more than 300,000 new cases of Lyme disease are diagnosed each year. The number of new cases has been increasing in recent years, and the areas where ticks are found are expanding, which puts more people in more states at potential risk.

The Working Group was authorized by Congress for a total of six years from the date that the Act became law. The current authorization extends until December 2022.

The Tick-Borne Disease Working Group has 14 members - seven federal members and seven public members. Federal members represent the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, and other federal agencies or offices the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services determines appropriate. Public members represent the following categories: 1) physicians and other medical providers with experience in diagnosing and treating tick-borne diseases; 2) scientists or researchers with expertise; 3) patients and their family members; and 4) nonprofit organizations that advocate for patients with respect to tick-borne diseases.

Macaluso earned a Ph.D. in 2000 at Oklahoma State University. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Maryland Baltimore School of Medicine from 2000 to 2004. Then, he joined the faculty at Louisiana State University School (LSU) of Veterinary Medicine. In 2009 he was tenured and in 2013 was promoted to professor. In 2019, Macaluso became the Locke Distinguished Chair and Chair of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology in the College of Medicine at the University of South Alabama.

He has been involved with several professional scientific societies including the American Society for Rickettsiology and Rickettsial Diseases and the American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. He serves on executive committees within these societies, and has been active in other advisory panels including BEI Vectors Focus group and as a regular member of the NIH Vector Biology Study Section. He serves as a subject editor for the Journal of Medical Entomology, a publication of the Entomological Society of America. Macaluso is funded by the NIH since 2002 to study tick- and flea-borne rickettsial diseases. He has more than 60 scientific papers, several book chapters, and he contributed to the latest version of the Arthropod Containment Guidelines for laboratory research.