Virtual Reality Simulation Lab in Action
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Virtual Reality Simulation Lab in Action

Virtual Reality Lab

One of the stages of the University’s five year Strategic Plan and Master Facilities Plan was to “provide facilities and technology that provide the appropriate infrastructure to promote state-of-the-art education and clinical programs” in addition to “investing in technologies, teaching methodologies, and evidenced-based standards and practices that foster excellence in education, clinical and business processes.” That being said, the opening and completion of the Virtual Reality Simulation Lab adjacent to the recently revived Clinical Procedures Lab were two of these major initiatives to keep Salus at the forefront of optometric education delivery.  

Featuring state-of-the-art VRmagic equipment and software for virtual retinal examinations, Dr. Rachel Brackley, assistant professor in the University’s Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) and committee chair for the renovation project, is pleased to see the lab complete. She is also excited about the increased educational opportunities it will undoubtedly provide PCO students as budding optometrists.

“We will introduce the skills of direct ophthalmoscopy and indirect ophthalmoscopy earlier in the curriculum,” she said. “It will allow students to work on these skills at their own individual pace. They will receive immediate feedback about what they are examining and if they missed any part of the assigned task. These skills can be difficult to learn and our hope is that when students move to examining patients with these skills they will master the skill more quickly.”

Virtual Reality Simulation Lab

Another major facet of the University’s strategic planning priorities is to continually enhance academic programs in addition to the commitment of graduating the highest caliber professionals – this new lab will certainly help students hone their clinical skills prior to delivering patient care at The Eye Institute.  The Virtual Reality Simulation Lab includes eight stations for indirect ophthalmoscopy and four for direct ophthalmoscopy. Each station is equipped with a touch-screen monitor, a model patient head, and the tools needed for either direct or indirect ophthalmoscopy. The indirect ophthalmoscopy stations also include a wearable headset with a display monitor.

The VRmagic software has various modules users can select to test a variety of skills such as properly using an ophthalmoscope, finding shapes on the retina, examining objects found on a retinal map, locating and identifying retinal pathologies, and using a case-study format to examine a model patient. One of the features of the lab that stands out is the capability to have the simulator projected for group learning, further enhancing the students’ understanding of the cases and concepts being reviewed.

University president Dr. Michael H. Mittelman had the privilege of being one of the first to test the new equipment. He was astounded by the life-like 3D modules and believes the technology will greatly enhance students’ clinical training.

“The fidelity of this new teaching tool was remarkable,” he said. “It’s going to change the way we both teach and learn; I’m certain of that. This new lab will also help to set us apart from other programs in the country.” PCO is one of less than half of the 24 colleges of optometry with this technology.

Dr. Brackley agrees the new Virtual Reality Simulation Lab will help set Salus PCO apart as staying current with the latest optometric training and clinical tools is crucial to students’ success.

“I believe this a way for us as optometric educators to modernize our teaching methods with innovative technologies to improve our students education,” she said. 

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