“21st Century Grave-Robbing” Part I: 3D Interactive Tech in CME



For millennia, educators have recognized that the best way to train the next generation is to have students complete the task themselves. This “teach a man to fish” idea is undoubtedly true in medicine, where the demand for realistic training is so high that employing grave-robbers in the 1800s became an understandable work expense. Centuries later, this demand remains.

While current medical education still centers around the dissections of bodies donated—not disturbed, the amount of time spent completing dissections is decreasing.1 At the same time, advances in 3D technology are ushering in a new era of realistic training tools that make anatomical content accessible outside the lab, expanding its use from first year med students to professionals in continuing medical education (CME).

Educating Professionals

Encompassing a wide range of ages and abilities, CME programs are designed to keep all levels of health providers—from trainees to veterans—informed and up-to-date. It’s challenging to introduce material that will resonate with this broad audience, but studies show that CME programs are successful when they present information in as many ways as possible.

Specifically, a recent meta-analysis of CME training found:

  • Visual media was more effective than print
  • Multiple exposures to the same content was more effective than a single exposure
  • Introducing content using multiple education techniques (engaging multiple senses and learning styles) was more effective than using a single technique2


The governing body of CME training reflected these results in its July 2014 report, additionally stating that written information should not be used to improve physician performance, denouncing the ability of printed materials alone to improve the physical actions of doctors3. 3D-rendered images, on the other hand, have been shown to lead surgical trainees to a more accurate diagnosis than traditional 2D CT scans4.

Case Study


To meet the growing needs of CME, we recently customized the BioDigital Human Platform to create a unique surgical training program for myFace.

We developed:

  1. A step-by-step guide for 10 craniofacial surgical procedures
  2. Customized 3D anatomical models for each step
  3. Options to bring up surgical video, voice-over from world-renowned surgeons, images, and 3D labels throughout the procedures
  4. An interactive interface accessible on both mobile and the web


The result? The myFace Craniofacial Surgery Simulator–a tool that pairs individual exploration with guided instruction to train med students, residents, and experienced surgeons before they enter the operating room.

In the past, dissecting recently-buried bodies was the only way that physicians could practice their revolutionary methods. While this need remains, the current demands of CME have expanded to engage multiple learning styles and reflect the technology that’s common in medical practices. 3D interactive technology has evolved to target these needs, becoming the new “must-have” educational tool of the 21st century.

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