February 8, 2007
Contact: Larry Parker
Phone: (973) 972-3000
NJMS Adopts State-of-the-Art Medical Education Method
Laptops Replace Traditional Way of Examining Lab Slides
for 1st-year Medical Students
NEWARK — Microscopes are so 20th century, at least for first-year medical students at New Jersey Medical School.
The microscopes normally used in histology - the study of the structure of tissue using minute samples on slides, a class generally taken in the second semester of a medical student’s first year - have been replaced for the Class of 2010 by the students’ own laptop computers.
In recent weeks, students’ laptops were networked into a national database of 3,000 sample slides from two local Web servers and five remote Web servers - replacing the traditional microscope and box of 100 slides given to each medical student for histology. The technique is known as “virtual microscopy,” or VM.
Dr. Richard Feinberg, Ph.D., associate professor of ophthalmology and director of educational resources at NJMS, said VM is “a 21st century technology for a 21st century medical school.” Feinberg noted the change to VM lifted a potential $500,000-plus liability from the school to replace 30-year-old microscopes and to buy new slides.
Dr. Feinberg said, just as importantly, the new technology allows new and improved teaching methods. Histology using VM, he said, is simultaneously more team-oriented because students and professors can look at a computer together, rather than one at a time into a microscope, and self-directed because students can look at multiple slides at once and proceed more quickly should they pick up the material faster. “It really makes the learning more efficient,” Dr. Feinberg said.
First-year students in Dr. Feinberg’s histology class this semester seem delighted with the change. “I have spent a lot of time looking through microscopes, and know how much of a pain that can be,” said Lata Charath of Belle Mead said of her pre-NJMS science classes.
Students who will need to use microscopes for clinical practice in their careers, such as those specializing in hematology and pathology, will still receive specialized training for microscopes later in their medical education.
When Dr. Feinberg took his position as NJMS director of educational resources last summer, he began to seriously investigate VM - first at a seminar during last summer’s International Association of Medical Science Educators conference, and then when he organized a tour with top NJMS deans and students of the VM facilities at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx -- one of the first medical schools to adopt VM for its histology classes.
According to Mike Orland, a second-year NJMS student who attended the Albert Einstein tour with Dr. Feinberg and other administrators, the ultimate decision to adopt VM made him “ecstatic - and jealous,” because it meant his class became the last at NJMS to use old-fashioned microscopes and slides in histology class.
For more information about VM, or to arrange an interview with Dr. Feinberg and/or a visit to a histology lab at NJMS, please contact Larry Parker at (973) 972-7265.
UMDNJ is the nation's largest free-standing public health sciences university with more than 5,500 students attending the state's three medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and its only school of public health, on five campuses. Last year, there were more than two million patient visits to UMDNJ facilities and faculty at campuses in Newark, New Brunswick/Piscataway, Scotch Plains, Camden and Stratford. UMDNJ operates University Hospital, a Level I Trauma Center in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, a mental health and addiction services network.