Virtual Dissection Enables UAMS Students to Explore Human Anatomy

By ChaseYavondaC

Students can swipe, scroll and zoom to rotate images in 3D, explore inside the human body, swipe off sections with a virtual “knife” and touch to remove layers or organs so they can explore deeper inside the body.

Digital archives from UAMS and the wider public give students access to cases, where they might see the effects of a specific condition or treatment. They can learn to read different types of scans — like CT, MRI, X-ray and ultrasound — or practice their skills with microscopy.

Professors standing with smart table in the background

David L. Davies, Ph.D., (left) and Kevin D. Phelan, Ph.D., co-direct the Division of Clinical Anatomy.

“It’s not unusual for students to be using the table, see something they can’t explain, and go looking for the answer. When we inspire curiosity in students, they are more engaged in learning,” said David L. Davies, Ph.D., co-director of the Division of Clinical Anatomy in the College of Medicine. “It’s critical thinking, it’s investigative, like a puzzle they’re trying to piece together – and that’s the kind of thinking we want to inspire in future health care professionals.”

UAMS’ Sectra Table was one of the first 4K resolution models delivered in the United States and is the only in Arkansas. The $90,000 table is part of a $1.3 million renovation this summer to the College of Medicine’s anatomy lab.

The technology is cloud-based, so students can gather around the table to explore it in small groups or send images into lecture hall displays for large-group discussions.

The table has been used with some of UAMS’ summer programs for students of all ages who are interested in the medical sciences. In the fall, medical students, residents, nursing students, physician assistants, radiology students and others will encounter it as part of the curriculum and have access to it 24/7 for independent study in the College of Medicine gross anatomy laboratory.

Kevin D. Phelan, Ph.D., co-director of the Division of Clinical Anatomy, said that often students struggle to understand the 3D relationships between parts of the body, even if they have performed a dissection or seen many 2D diagrams.

“Tools like these can be a powerful way for students to visualize human anatomy and really orient themselves with the kind of expertise they will need,” Phelan said.

Davies said it is also incredibly important for students to learn to interact with technology.

“We’re training people today who are probably going to be in practice in 2060,” Davies said. “Technology and its relationship to medicine changes rapidly, so it’s important for our students to be comfortable using it. There are many surgical practices today that already use tools like these to scan a patient and plan the surgery. Our students are going to encounter this and technologies like it in their careers.”

UAMS is the state’s only health sciences university, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a hospital; a main campus in Little Rock; a Northwest Arkansas regional campus in Fayetteville; a statewide network of regional campuses; and eight institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, Psychiatric Research Institute, Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging, Translational Research Institute, Institute for Digital Health & Innovation and the Institute for Community Health Innovation. UAMS includes UAMS Health, a statewide health system that encompasses all of UAMS’ clinical enterprise. UAMS is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has 3,275 students, 890 medical residents and fellows, and five dental residents. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 12,000 employees, including 1,200 physicians who provide care to patients at UAMS, its regional campuses, Arkansas Children’s, the VA Medical Center and Baptist Health. Visit or Find us on Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), YouTube or Instagram.