Lindsay Virtual Human Project


LINDSAY Virtual Human Herald Story

Lindsay’s legacy revamps med school 

3-D anatomy model changes doctor training 

By Chris Nelson, Chris Nelson For The Calgary HeraldSeptember 2, 2012



Lindsay Kimmett’s life of promise appeared to end when the young medical student died in an awful car crash near her parents’ Cochrane home four long, hard years ago.Yet from that tragedy an idea was born and developed which today promises to change the very way medicine is taught in North America. Such is the scope of the Lindsay Project. Collaboration between the University of Calgary’s medical and science faculties first conceived and then built “Lindsay” – a virtual human that uses various touch techniques in helping students learn anatomy and physiology in 3-D. The project has proven so popular that it is now being customized for commercial uses through apps for devices such as iPads and iPhones.

And to Lindsay Kimmett’s parents, it is a wonderful tribute to the daughter they lost so tragically. “This is something that Lindsay would have loved. She would have just eaten it up. We have seen the project evolve over three years – it keeps growing and growing,” said her mother, Dianne. The idea of designing a virtual human for teaching purposes was a collaborative effort between Dr. Bruce Wright, associate dean of undergraduate medical education, and science professor, Christian Jacob. “I felt, as an educator, that we could do a lot better in terms of presenting anatomical and physiological information to students,” said Wright. “We came up with the idea of developing a 3-D virtual model that, over time, would not only include basic and important anatomy, but would also include important physiological processes and, more importantly, the path of disease process. “Our vision was to build something that would not only look at things in three-dimensional space, but also in time, so you could look at how the kidney works, for ex-ample, by demonstrating in a simulation process what goes on,” he added. It was then up to Jacob and his team in computer science to build it. “We sat together and figured out what it should look like and we came up with this idea of a virtual human. Bruce asked me if I watched shows such as CSI and House and if I was fascinated by all the simulations and gad-gets on those shows. I said, ‘Absolutely.’ Then he told me: ‘That’s what we want to build,'” said Jacob. Universities aren’t normally known for such close co-operation between departments, which makes the Lindsay Project so unusual. “What we were able to do, which I believe is unique in undergraduate education, is to bring together three groups, all of which are equally important to developing the Lindsay Project,” said Wright. “Those groups are computer people together with content people and educators. A lot of time when you put content people and computer people together, they come up with stuff that is really, really cool but not really, really useful. “Part of my role is to make sure those other two groups are doing things that can be used by students and teachers because the tendency of those first two groups is to include too much – too many bells and whistles,” he added.

Lindsay Kimmett was a student of Wright’s and her untimely death was a huge shock to him and her fellow medical students at the university. The work on the virtual human was just getting underway when Lindsay died in February 2008. “My idea was that we honour her memory by naming the project after her. Her parents were thrilled and actually then went the next step and have undertaken some fundraising to help develop the project,” added Wright. Lindsay was 26 and going into her final year of medical school when she died – a passenger in a friend’s car that rolled and crushed her. The driver survived. Her parents and two younger brothers were on a Caribbean cruise along with her 80-year-old grandmother at the time. “She was coming back to our house in Cochrane with a teammate from her hockey team. They had stayed in Airdrie overnight and it happened just 700 metres from our home gateway. It was a single car rollover on a bright, sunny morning,” said her father, Kelly. Her parents got the dreadful news later that day while at sea. “We had just finished dinner that evening and my sister phoned us on the boat. I will never forget that. We were not in a port, so we had to sail another nine or 10 hours to get to Cozumel and then work our way home from there,” said Kelly. The parents decided on that dreadful journey home to honour their daughter in some way. “Lindsay flourished in medical school. It was just so obvious that she had a passion for it. After she was killed, we decided we wanted to give a one-time gift to the university with no strings attached,” said Dianne. “After a year, the idea of this project came up. It seemed so appropriate,” she added. The virtual human teaching tool was demonstrated at the Cochrane high school where Lindsay was once a student. “One of the student’s mothers actually sought me out and said her daughter had never liked biology but this year loved biology because they were working with the Lindsay Project and in fact it had inspired her to change her career path,” said Dianne.

Educators and medical people across North America are also increasingly aware of the human tragedy behind the project’s success. “Lindsay isn’t just an acronym. There’s an actual story behind it. At conferences, people ask, ‘Where does the name Lindsay come from?’ and they hear the story and realize there is a true person behind all this,” said Jacob. With commercialization in the pipeline and an ever-increasing array of outlets for the Lindsay Project, one thing won’t change. “She was a student of mine. Her classmates were devastated. She was a pretty remarkable student and by all accounts she wanted to be an educator and she wanted to have a positive influence on everyone,” said Wright. “Forever, well, that’s a big word. But as long as I am in charge, this project will always be named Lindsay.”

© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald


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Lindsay Virtual Human

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LINDSAY Virtual Human from LINDSAY Virtual Human on Vimeo.Lindsay_1.wmv

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