Wednesday 13 March 2013 3:25pm
A world-leading ‘virtual radiation therapy training system’ which will radically improve the teaching of radiation therapy and facilitate cancer patients’ treatment will be launched by the Minister of Health, Tony Ryall, at the University of Otago, Wellington (UOW) this Thursday.
The $1m ‘Virtual Environment Radiation Therapy Training System’, or VERT, has been installed at the national provider of radiation therapy training in Wellington. It is a major educational advance for the 90 students enrolled in the three-year Bachelor of Radiation Therapy.
Director of Radiation Therapy at UOW, Karen Coleman, says the Ministry of Health and University of Otago funded facility will revolutionise student education and improve their preparation for treating patients.
“VERT for the first time allows our students to completely visualise radiation treatment and processes which can’t normally be seen using a real linear accelerator,” explains Ms Coleman.
“This significantly raises the level of theory and practice through more effective and efficient training. It makes it much easier for students to grasp difficult concepts; we’ve already seen this with our first year students.”
“Students and staff are absolutely delighted by the new facility which is a ‘total immersive learning system’ using 2D and 3D imagery. It not only means more effective and interactive training in the use of three types of linear accelerators, but also ensures the students are better prepared for their clinical training with real patients in hospitals.”
Ms Coleman and the Pro-Vice-Chancellor Health Sciences, Professor Peter Crampton, pay tribute to the efforts by the Cancer Society and its chief executive Dalton Kelly in advocating for the purchase of this vital equipment which is now becoming standard overseas.
“We’re thrilled with the installation of VERT as an integral part of radiation therapy education at the University of Otago, Wellington. VERT will also ensure that the Department of Radiation Therapy continues to be at the leading edge internationally, with quality teaching and research. The University thanks the Ministry of Health and the Cancer Society for enabling this initiative,” says Professor Crampton.
The big advance with the UK-designed VERT system is that it allows students to plan treatment, then operate and control virtual radiation therapy on a large back-projected screen as though they are actually in a radiation treatment room. It is a true ‘virtual’ operating system extending the existing Eclipse treatment planning system used to educate students.
The life-like and high resolution images show the linear accelerator, the radiation beam, radiation dose clouds, and importantly how well radiation is targeted to particular areas of the body.
All these images can be manipulated by the student or the lecturer through the use of a standard computer controlled wand.
“It really is incredible with 3D,” says Ms Coleman, “as though you are right there in the treatment room, being able to walk around the accelerator and see all aspects of the treatment; how the radiation beam is positioned in relation to the internal anatomy of the body, which would not normally be seen.”
The University of Otago says that the new system can also be used by medical physicists, radiation oncologists, oncology nurses and other health professionals, and to explain to patients complicated aspects of their treatment.
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