By Laura J. Hall

Getting Real

Virtual Reality Lab Opens New Horizons for UNM Health Sciences Students

The Health Sciences Library and Informatics Center is opening a new Virtual Reality Lab for HSC students and faculty to enhance coursework and learning. The VR Lab is part of the library's new strategic direction to better support student success while re-envisioning the library for the future.

Today's library offers more than traditional books and services. It includes spaces for students to collaborate, study and learn together, and an immersive learning environment such as VR is part of the mix.

The world of immersive technology has made major leaps forward in the last decade. These amazing advances in the technology have led to multiple applications - including employing the technology in higher education for "immersive learning."

By stepping into virtual reality, health care students are given new opportunities to explore, make connections, and learn through doing. This type of learning in turn increases retention and desired proficiency.

Upon visiting the new VR Lab for the first time, Philip Kroth, MD, associate professor and director of UNM Bioinformatics and Research, was enthused. "The experience is a great illustration of how this technology could be used as an innovative and engaging educational technique," he said. "This is the future!"

HSLIC's VR Lab is equipped with the latest Wireless HTC VIVE Pro virtual reality headsets. Students enter a virtual playground in which they can learn by going "inside" the human eye, manipulating body systems and being immersed inside the human heart. They can also explore the regular function of human organs, as well as see how a defect can interfere with the normal functions of an organ.

"The VR lab allows students and faculty to view and interact with complex physiological and pathophysiological processes in a novel and exciting way," said Michael Bernauer, PharmD, who is a fellow in the UNM Biomedical Informatics Program.

Kristen Ostrem, CNM, assistant professor and director of MSN programs in the College of Nursing, is already using 360° videos produced here at UNM to better inform her students of what it is like to be in a birthing room or experience a virtual patient visit. These experiences are formative for students, and the new VR Lab will make these videos more accessible.

To kick-start this service, HSLIC will be hosting three open houses for the HSC community to come in and explore the new VR Lab located on the fourth floor. The open houses are open to anyone at the HSC and demos will be provided.

The VR Lab has a number of apps, including 3D Organon VR Anatomy, Enlightened League of Bone Builders and the Osseous Enigma Content, Medicalholodeck: The Real Human Anatomy, Physiology of the Eye, The Body VR: Journey Inside a Cell, The King's Request: Physiology and Anatomy Revision Game, and Vision Therapy VR.

For more information please email, or call (505) 272-2311.

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