CMC’s virtual dissection table lets you see what’s inside |

CMC’s virtual dissection table lets you see what’s inside

Samantha Chester, left, and Colorado Mountain College biology professor Tim Loes demonstrate CMC's new virtual dissection table. It's developed and built by Anatomage, a Silicon Valley company where Chester is an application engineer.
Randy Wyrick / Vail Daily |

EDWARDS — If the purpose of education is to peel back layers to reveal what’s inside, and it is, then you’ve never seen anything quite like Colorado Mountain College’s new gear.

CMC added a virtual dissection table a couple of weeks ago. They’re made by Anatomage, a Silicon Valley company. They’re the world’s first virtual dissection table, and they work like a giant iPad.

The table displays the human anatomy, life-sized and in lifelike 3-D. You rotate the virtual bodies, cut them, peel away skin, muscles, bones, organs and veins to see each layer of the human body — all with the touch of a finger. Bodies are male or female, and the table is seven feet long.

It even has an undo button if you make mistakes, which will probably happen.

Already a teaching tool

The table is already part of CMC’s curriculum.

“It’s a good investment because CMC Edwards has an unusually large percentage of students studying the health sciences: EMS, EMT and paramedic students, nursing students,” said Kathryn Regjo, vice president and Edwards campus administrator.

Many CMC students will get all the training they need in Edwards. Others will transfer on to other colleges for advanced degrees.

CMC bought it the old school way.

“Through our instructional budgeting we’ve been rubbing our pennies together to save up for something we really need,” Regjo said.

CMC spent $80,000 for its Anatomage table. That’s 8,000,000 pennies.

Cadaver labs

Schools in the mountains don’t much have access to cadaver labs. That means science/biology professor Tim Loes loads up his students and schleps them down to the Front Range.

This changes that.

“You can do things you with this that you cannot do in a cadaver lab,” Regjo said.

In a cadaver lab you can do things once, but that’s it. We mentioned the table’s undo button, right?

The tables won’t replace working hands-on with real cadavers, but it gives students a chance to see what’s under there, Loes said.

The table also enables Loes and others to teach a much larger number of potential health care professionals.

The goal is to help CMC students, as well as local high school students. It’s a chance for them to see things they would never see otherwise, Loes said.

Want to see inside a brain? You can. How about a heart? That too. The nervous system, the cardiovascular system … all right there with the touch of your finger.

The Anatomage tables can also be used to review X-rays, MRIs and CT scans, or rolled into auditoriums to project images on screens for larger anatomy classes.

See what’s inside

The tables have been around for five years, said Samantha Chester, an Anatomage application engineer.

Students can peel back structures layer by layer, so you can uncover all the internal structures. You do this with one finger.

If you want to see what a particular muscle is, tap on it. It’ll tell you what the muscle is and how it’s connected to everything around it.

“You cannot get this on a model,” Loes said. “On a cadaver you cannot see all this at once.”

Stanford and some other top universities have programmed curriculum into it. Loes is already incorporating his own ideas.

Also programmed into the virtual dissection tables are various injuries. There’s a gunshot wound, various breaks and abrasions, diseases and other maladies.

People make mistakes, especially when they’re learning new things, Loes said. Equipment such as CMC’s virtual dissection table allows students to make those mistakes in a controlled classroom environment, and not in the field where there is no undo button.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and

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