Designing digital resources for doctors

For decades, Gray’s Anatomy has been a go-to reference for medical students wanting to learn and revise anatomy. However, with advances in technology, students now gravitate to animations and videos with 3D models and visualisations that help develop their understanding.

As medical schools look to create media-rich resources to support student learning, it’s clear that the design process is more effective when approached as a partnership that includes medical illustrators, clinicians and surgeons, educationalists and students.

Over the past few years, Dundee University’s School of Medicine has been developing these design partnerships – taken to a new level with the appointment of medical illustrator Annie Campbell.
The design of digital learning resources in the Dundee medical curriculum involves members of the Technology and Innovation in Learning Team working with colleagues in the School of Medicine and clinical teachers in NHS Tayside.

The team leads the educational, multimedia and artistic design and clinicians bring their medical exper- tise. The team also runs and teaches a student-selected module, the ‘Doctor as Digital Teacher and Resource Developer’, which sees students create their own digital learning resources.

While most students will have some form of teaching responsibility in their career as a doctor, this module introduces students to learning theory, multimedia design, presentation design and issues around copyright.

Students apply this knowledge and develop their educational, design and digital skills as they go on to create a digital learning resource to support student learning in the Dundee curriculum. These resources also have the potential to be reused to support patient communication.

This design partnership model is one that can be applied to many other creative areas particularly in educational settings. Much of the work has been openly licensed for other individuals to reuse, remix and modify including the public who can engage with our work on publicly accessible platforms such as a Vimeo channel – from here people can also 3D print the model.

‘Under the Digital Skin’, a presenta- tion prepared for the recent Dundee Design Festival, shows one of these projects developed by third-year medical student Zoe Kirkham-Mowbray, creator of ‘Anatomy of the Larynx’, a trio of 3D videos.

The videos provide an overview of its anatomy, look at its membranes and muscles and provide insights into the pathology of the larynx in relation to cancer. The series was developed through an iterative creative process, involving storyboarding and scriptwriting, which benefited from feedback on design, clinical and educational perspectives.

The partnership work is allowing Dundee University’s School of Medicine to take a creative approach to triangulating the different aspects of the design process and training the next generation of doctors for their role as teachers.

Natalie Lafferty, Zoe Kirkham-Mowbray and Annie Campbell, University of Dundee, and Rodney Mountain, NHS Tayside.