SMU Researchers Create Low-cost Virtual Reality Training to Improve Care during Labor and Delivery

SMU researchers receive funding from Wellcome Trust to develop low cost virtual reality training to help improve skills to surgically manage postpartum hemorrhage.  Such training may not only reduce time and cost to train providers but reduce risk of COVID-19 transmission by reducing face-to-face interactions during surgical training.

COVID-19 has created complex challenges and opportunities in teaching and learning, including how medical providers are trained to perform complex medical procedures.  An international team of researchers from King’s College London, Southern Methodist University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and the University of Zambia is developing techniques to train surgeons using low cost eLearning tools and Virtual Reality which can help improve the acquisition of knowledge and skills without patient contact.1,2

The multidisciplinary team has been awarded a Wellcome Trust research grant to build and field test a virtual reality training platform for the surgical management of postpartum hemorrhage.  The team at SMU is led by Dr. Eric G. Bing, Professor of Global Health in the Departments of Applied Physiology & Wellness and Anthropology and Dr. Anthony Cuevas, Assistant Dean for Technology & Innovation and Clinical Professor in the Department of Teaching & Learning.

Researchers from SMU and UNC Chapel Hill developing a VR simulation.
Researchers from SMU and UNC Chapel Hill developing a VR simulation.

Surgery is one of the most crucial domains of global medicine, yet most low- and middle-income countries have stark deficits in both the absolute numbers of surgeons and their level of expertise to perform complex surgical procedures. Of the many types of emergency surgical interventions, some of the most crucial and complex are those required to manage obstetrical hemorrhage, the world’s most common cause of maternal death. Funding from the Wellcome Trust will enable researchers to build and field test the first general affordable obstetrical virtual reality simulator training platform for the surgical management of obstetrical hemorrhage. The innovative training platform, once built, will integrate the latest advances in virtual reality technology with traditional hands-on training and can be easily and affordably delivered within low and middle-income contexts. The application of an enhanced learning platform will rapidly build surgical capacity and capability for complex surgical procedures, some of which are life-saving, and increase access to a level of care that is very difficult for most women residing in these environments to obtain.

This research will build upon a low-cost Virtual Reality Surgery Simulator developed by many members of the current team.

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