New site gives UAB students an edge in anatomy studies

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rep anatomy site image 550pxUAB students and faculty can access the Virtual Anatomy Lab using their BlazerID.

Next week, Hunter Davies will join the rest of the class of 2027 as a first-year student at the UAB Heersink School of Medicine.

Davies, who goes by Caroline, already has a head start in her studies, however. As a research project for her master’s degree in anatomical sciences, Davies and Associate Professor Inga Kadisha, Ph.D., have built multiple digital tools to help students grasp the complex structures of the body.

Their first creation, a study tool for the Virtual Interactive Brain Atlas, or VIBA, includes more than 1,500 PowerPoint slides and more than 500 practice problems that can be navigated interactively. It was incorporated into anatomy education for UAB undergraduates and dental and optometry students in the spring 2023 semester, with positive feedback from students. Over the summer — with help from Kristina Visscher, Ph.D., and Pinar Demirayak, Ph.D., in the Department of Neurobiology — Davies and Kadisha have added an MRI component to the tool. This fall, as Davies begins med school, second-year medical students at UAB will find the tool integrated into the curriculum for their neuroscience module.

On July 14, Davies and Kadisha launched the Virtual Anatomy Lab, which opens their work up to the entire campus. The SharePoint site connects their VIBA study tool with a wide range of other in-house and external resources, including textbooks, histology slides, study guides, links to helpful sites, quizzes, podcasts and YouTube videos. The site will continue to evolve over time.

“We would love the site to be reached by both students and faculty,” Davies said. “Ultimately, we aim for this new website to help students continue to grow their knowledge of anatomy as well as be able to access a variety of sources that will cater to each student’s unique learning style.”

Anatomy is a core pillar in professional school education, notes Kadisha, who besides teaching anatomy has a research focus on aging and Alzheimer’s disease in the Department of Cell, Developmental and Integrative Biology. “It is our hope that the students will find Virtual Anatomy Lab to be a useful study tool, where in one place they can search for a wide variety of anatomy-related resources,” Kadisha said.

Davies, a Birmingham native who received her bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Texas at Austin, returned home for UAB’s master’s program in biomedical and health sciences, graduating in 2022. That sparked her interest in anatomy, which led her to the Anatomical Sciences program for her second graduate degree.

Now that she is starting medical school, does Davies see herself using the Virtual Anatomy Lab? “I absolutely see myself using the resource as a medical student, and I am excited to have it offered as a free resource to all UAB students,” she said.