Summer 2017

Classrooms of the Future

Help equip tomorrow’s doctors with the learning tools they need today. 

By Monica Jimenez

Previous Next

Students in an anatomy lecture at the School of Medicine. Photo: Alonso Nichols

Once upon a time, learning to be a doctor involved sitting in a classroom and listening to lectures. But today, medical students learn by doing. This means hands-on practice with ultrasound machines. It means walking through scenarios from drawing blood to complex medical emergencies. It means, in other words, more and better technology than ever before—and future doctors that are better prepared because of it. “Technology is a driving force for humanity. It’s integrated into every facet of society,” said Tufts University School of Medicine (TUSM) medical simulation specialist Chris McNeal. “Medicine and education are no exceptions.”

After receiving a $15 million gift from the Jaharis Family Foundation in fall 2016 and embarking on a renovation and expansion of the gross anatomy lab and anatomical education suite, the school has established a fund to support faculty and equip its new spaces with the latest in medical technology. In addition to its gift, the Jaharis Family Foundation has challenged the medical school community to raise an additional $10 million to support this technology fund and other priorities, such as financial aid and faculty support.

Technology has long since been a cornerstone of the medical school. With the support and supervision of faculty in the Clinical Skills and Simulation Center, students are placing breathing tubes and chest tubes, inserting blood lines and learning to diagnose and treat illness and injury in computerized mannequins that talk and mimic real-life patient symptoms, such as dilated pupils, a low heart rate, coughing and sweating. “Simulation centers, or experiential centers, have become an integral training resource for a majority of paramedical, nursing, medical and hospital programs,” McNeal said.

Now, after more than 10 years, TUSM’s mannequins are about to evolve. With support from the technology fund, the school is seeking to upgrade to newer models that include automatic drug recognition and Wi-Fi so they can move off-site, as well as additional faculty time to supervise students working with the mannequins.

The school is also looking to introduce simulation training with a technology that was once the sole purview of specialists, but is expected to one day become as ubiquitous as the stethoscope: ultrasound. TUSM plans to invest in ultrasound probes connected to laptops, which simulate real scans by producing results from a library of existing images. Students will also use portable ultrasound machines on cadavers in the soon-to-be-completed gross anatomy lab, which will also feature iPads and GoPro digital video cameras. Instead of poring over print textbooks, students will view photos and video of the anatomy they are learning with one swipe across the screen, and share work instantly with fellow students and instructors.

For their part, faculty will wear GoPros mounted on head harnesses and linked to shared screens, so all 200 students can see what a faculty member is pointing to at the same time.

“To produce clinicians skilled at problem solving and experts in clinical reasoning, Tufts medical school is moving away from traditional lectures to activities that emphasize engaged, interactive and team-based learning,” said Scott Epstein, M84, A15P, dean for educational affairs.

Technological investments to support hands-on, collaborative learning will include new dissection and two prosection tables in the gross anatomy lab and a Technology Enabled Active Learning (TEAL) classroom based on a design by MIT, where students will work at stations set up for interacting with each other and their instructor.

Those interested in supporting this technological transformation can give to the fund by naming spaces in the new anatomical education suite and in the simulation center, including the TEAL classroom, simulation rooms, patient exam rooms, locker rooms and dissection tables. “Ongoing support for the technology fund will not only allow us to enhance existing programs,” McNeal said, “but develop new ones geared toward other specialties and areas of interest to the student population.”

Monica Jimenez can be reached at


By the Numbers

Powering Up

These are just some of the tech tools the Clinical Skills and Medical Education Technology Fund will help stock in TUSM’s newly renovated facilities:


10 Sonosite Edge IIs
Handy for training students in bedside diagnosis and therapy, this compact ultrasound is easy to carry—and hard to break.


200 Sonosim Gmes
With probes that connect to laptop USB ports, these training systems transform computers into ultrasound simulators for on-demand scanning.


4 Advanced Patient Simulators
The two SimMan 3G adult males, plus one full-term newborn and one adult female (also a childbirth simulator) give real-time feedback, encourage collaborative learning and improve decision-making.


1 Gopro Camera
Using a head-mounted camera long favored by skydivers and extreme skiers, instructors can project images from the prosection table to the rest of the classroom, hands-free.



Top Stories

The Hunt for Hope in the Genome

Three decades ago, a team of researchers—including future Tufts President Anthony P. Monaco—combed through millions of DNA letters to find the flawed gene responsible for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Here’s how their work led to the first-ever FDA-approved drug for treating the deadly disease.

We Are Sharewood: An Oral History

The inside story of one of the country’s first free, student-run medical treatment centers.

Fighting Treacherous Bacteria

Inside Aimee Shen’s quest to eradicate a potentially deadly infection.

Edible Arrangements

What you need to know about marijuana-dosed foods.

Editor's Picks

The Visionary

Outgoing Sackler School Dean Naomi Rosenberg has left her mark on science—and the next generation.

My Pain, My Passion

How a Tufts alum’s illness became her life’s work. 

Classrooms of the Future

Help equip tomorrow’s doctors with the learning tools they need today. 

Gut Check

How Tufts researchers are using tissue engineering to target enteric diseases.