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Thursday, July 28, 2005

Med students set to train on superdummies

Special to The Japan Times

It's the most advanced artificial human outside of a Japanese sex shop. The Human Patient Simulator, also known as Stan D Ardman ("Standard Man"), may not look or feel exactly human, but it leaves sex toys behind when it comes to mimicking human physiology.

News photo
Judy Harris demonstrates a Human Patient Simulator to a medical student at Bristol University's Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, where the manikins will be the first in the world used in the teaching of undergraduates. PHOTOS COURTESY OF BRISTOL UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICAL SCIENCES
News photo

The manikin can talk, and among other things can simulate heart failure, massive blood loss and asthma attacks. It has a pulse, and bellows in the chest drive the exhalation of carbon dioxide and consumption of oxygen. As a bonus, it can even change sex.

The manikins -- there are two at the Bristol University School of Medical Sciences in western England -- will be the first in the world used to teach undergraduate medical students basic physiology.

Limit to learning

"There is a limit to what students can learn about by running tests on each other," says Judy Harris, of Bristol's Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, where the manikins will be used.

Students currently learn basic human physiology by experimenting on themselves, but that only allows them to measure things like lung volume and blood pressure, in healthy subjects.

"We don't have people in their 60s and 70s," says Harris. "And we can't inject drugs into students or put catheters into them."

With the Human Patient Simulator, they can.

The manikin comes equipped with sophisticated software that simulates the conditions underlying various physiological conditions. It can be programmed to simulate abnormal body function, disease processes and the effects of drugs. Students can measure the proportion of gases it breathes out, and decide what treatment it needs. If necessary, a catheter can be fitted to take a "urine" sample. The manikin has interchangeable male and female external genitalia.

Once a diagnosis has been made, students then select the appropriate drug and dosage, and a syringe fitted with a bar code allows them to inject the manikin. The computer scans the bar code and reproduces the effects of the drug on the manikin. If they get it wrong, they can "kill" the dummy.

"The beauty is, we can wind the clock back," says Harris. The Human Patient Simulator will reset the manikin to the condition it was in before the drug was injected, and the student can try again.

The manikin was developed from technology used in flight simulators. The two at Bristol, unveiled at a Physiological Society meeting held there last week, together cost £250,000 ($430,000).

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