AAA Resources: An Update on the Virtual Dissection Database

In just two years, the Virtual Dissection Database (VDD) has proven to be an invaluable resource for anatomists around the world. However, even the VDD founders could not have imagined the impact the database would have on teaching in one particular country.

“The majority of users are from U.S. which makes sense,” said VDD co-principal Matthew Vilburn of the University of Nebraska Medical Center. “But when we look at who is using it in other countries, Ukraine has the most sessions per user. I’ve emailed with some of the instructors and they say with everything in turmoil over there, it’s made it possible for them to continue to have classes and to supplement their education materials.”

Inspired in part by the COVID-19 pandemic and funded by AAA in July 2020, the VDD launched in February 2021 as a digital library of dissection videos and cadaveric images, as well as surface anatomy and clinical resources, to assist in teaching the anatomical sciences.

In fact, based on user sessions, none of the top 10 countries using the VDD have English as their primary language, which is why Vilburn and his co-principal, Samantha Simet are hoping to add closed captioning in other languages to the videos in the database.

Vilburn and Simit also hope to incorporate three dimensional images into the VDD in the future. “I have a student that just completed 3D imaging all of the bones of the entire body, and we working with him to finalize those and get those uploaded,” Simit said.

Now with the second anniversary of the database just around the corner, Simit and Vilburn are focused on making the website more user-friendly and are working with developers to improve the search functionality. “We’re working right now to get a more Netflix-style program,” Simit said. “Giving the website a little more pizzazz this year.”

Simit and Vilburn are also taking time to reflect on the lessons learned along the way and are thankful to everyone who has helped move the project along. “When I first had the idea for a repository for videos, I didn’t know here to start. I had several co-working mentors who directed on where to go to talk to people who could help us get started. The people here have been amazing at helping me to grow and helping me to progress in ways I couldn’t have predicted,” Vilburn said.

“Watching Matt grow has been awesome as well and kudos to him for stepping up and being open to the mentoring, which isn’t easy when you’re doing these types of projects,” Simit said. 

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