Thorax Virtual Anatomy Lab for Pre-Professional Health Sciences Students

Publication ID Published Volume
3155 July 22, 2009 5


This is an online tutorial that serves as an introduction to human thorax gross anatomy for pre-professional health sciences students. Its objective is to stimulate active self-directed learning by integrating gross anatomy into a structured format that is readily accessible for local and distance learning. The thorax and its parts are dissected, photographed, and the images are digitized for computer-assisted instruction. They are constructed with Flash software for interactive learning. This knowledge is critical to prepare students for their clinical years.

Active learning was achieved by grouping the contents into parts dealing with the thorax anatomy, e.g., the wall, lungs, heart, and mediastinum. The use of drag and drop labels on high quality images provides the interactive learning. It challenges students with identification and matching exercises, as well as cadaver lab quizzes. It compliments didactic and practical activities for nursing and dental hygiene students enrolled in the Human Anatomy Online course.

The Robert C. Byrd Health Science Center participates in the pipeline of West Virginia University educational support programs. Its objective is to increase the college going rate among underrepresented secondary students and help meet West Virginia's need for health care providers. This is particularly important in the more remote and economically disadvantaged areas of the second most rural state in America. This program was developed because the mountainous terrain, lack of roads, and location of our medical centers in rural cities, conspire to promote poor access to health care and education in most of the state. The educational pipeline created draws students from the entire state, building rural health care network across the state that incorporates rural health care into the curriculum. We have successfully trained health sciences students to work in rural community- based settings. University's Extended Learning Departments have encouraged faculty to reach out to distance learners everywhere to provide more learning possibilities. The human anatomy course was successfully offered beginning in 2002. The course has been well received by non-traditional students and WVU students taking the course during the summer session at home. Out-of-state and international students needing a general anatomy prerequisite for more advanced study also take this course. The program serves nursing, dental hygiene, pharmacy, pre-medical and pre-dental students, physical and occupational therapy, athletic trainers, radiology technicians, speech therapy, and emergency medicine technicians.

This tutorial addressed the need for an online anatomy lab class to teach learners a large volume of information without overwhelming them all at once. Pre-professional students study the materials in the library, at home, or in the dissection laboratory and other study areas. Virtual and real visits to the anatomy lab will be arranged in addition to the online assignments. The students can choose the offered following lab modules to fit their needs: Limbs and Back, Thorax, Abdominopelvic Region, and Head and Neck. The combination of the general anatomy course and the Virtual Lab provide sufficient information for students to fulfill prerequisite requirements and to prepare them for professional level anatomy courses, i.e., medical, dental, and graduate courses in anatomy.


Klinkhachorn P, Kraszpulska B, Allen E, Altemus J, Walker E. Thorax virtual anatomy lab for pre-professional health sciences students. MedEdPORTAL Publications. 2009;5:3155.

Educational Objectives

  1. To be able to learn the normal gross anatomy of the human thorax.
  2. To be able to stimulate self-directed learning.
  3. To be able to provide access for both local and distance learning.


  • Computer-Aided Instruction, Thorax Virtual Lab, Educational Technology

Prior Scholarly Dissemination


Thorax Virtual Anatomy Lab for Pre-Professional Health Sciences Students P. Klinkhachorn, E. Walker, E. Allen, J. Altemus, and B. Kraszpulska1 West Virginia University School of Medicine, and Wright State University School of Medicine1. The FASEB Journal. 2008;22:575.11

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ISSN 2374-8265