VERMILLION, S.D. – Anja Cucak, a rising third-year University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine student, with the help of Dr. Valeriy Kozmenko, director of the Parry Center for Clinical Skills and Simulation, created an interactive online interface that allows students to work with health care simulations remotely.
Students spend much of their medical education in simulations to learn in a safe environment without putting others at risk until they have perfected their craft. These simulations typically consist of lifelike mannequins with advanced computer systems that can simulate different reactions to procedures and medicine in the heart, lung, stomach and more. While the mannequins are helpful, they are costly, and they quickly become outdated. Cucak and Kozmenko set out to find a more convenient and cost-effective method of simulation education.
“We are building and developing a suite of screen-based applications that would be available and effective alternatives to high-fidelity simulation for distance learning,” said Cucak. “The suite includes lung and heart auscultation trainers as well as a screen-based patient simulation experience.”
Cucak and Kozmenko began exploring options for remote simulation during the COVID-19 pandemic last spring. What they have created enhances remote learning for students to practice skills and learn how to identify diseases and illness through examinations like heart and lung auscultations. Their online application also simulates for a full body vitals check, which includes a mental wellness check. All medical students can have access to the application, providing more opportunities to practice.
“It is important as the state’s only medical school, to find any chance to innovate and create new education opportunities for our medical students,” Cucak said. “The better access students have to education, the better we can prepare them for their future careers. As our medical school improves, so do our state’s future health care providers. Additionally, online simulation can serve as a foundation for future alternatives to in-person learning.”