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The first UK medical school launches Google Glass technology in curriculum

Queen Mary University of London's Medical School – Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry – is launching the ground-breaking use of Google Glass technology into its undergraduate curriculum, primarily within surgical teaching. This is the first of its kind outside of North America, having only been used by a small number of medical schools in the USA so far.

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Google Glass used in surgery
Google Glass used in surgery

Google Glass is a wearable computer with an optical head-mounted display. Earlier this year, Virtual Medics™ – a group of consultant surgeons at Barts Health NHS Trust and medical students at QMUL – used Google Glass to film a surgical procedure in what was the UK's first global live-streamed surgical teaching session.

The procedure – to remove cancerous tissue from the liver and bowel of a 78 year-old man – and this was watched live via computer or mobile phone, by 13,000 surgical students, healthcare professionals and members of the public from around the world in over 115 countries.

By embedding Google Glass into the medical curriculum, students will have access to cutting edge technology and an enhanced learning experience. Benefits of using the technology include:

  • Students can watch live surgery on their mobile devices, laptops and computers.
  • Students can interact with surgeons during procedures, such as asking them questions, without compromising the safety of the procedure.
  • Students will be taught basic surgical and clinical skills remotely using the streaming platform via Virtual Medics™ online learning environment - this will be the most technologically advanced module in the undergraduate curriculum

Mr Shafi Ahmed, Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer in Surgery at Queen Mary University of London and Director of Virtual Medics™ comments: "Harnessing this technology really shows our medical school is both ready for, and supportive of, new ideas for teaching and learning. We are starting out by using Google Glass for surgical teaching, but our long-term aim is to roll it out in other aspects of the school.

"Our medical students have an active involvement in this initiative, in particular Ali Jawad and Oliver Trampleasure, who helped found the programme and are further increasing participation in various projects through our Virtual Medics™ Associates Scheme. The students see its value and are excited about its potential – which is really great to see."

The medical school aims to analyse other areas of the curriculum which could be modernised and enhanced by integrating this technology. The school also aims to establish itself as a centre of excellence for using Google Glass in medical education and training, eventually helping other medical schools who are interested in using the platform.

Mr Ahmed continues: "I am excited about how ahead-of-the-curve this technology is, and its great potential. This could totally change how we teach and engage our students and hopefully in inspire them in their future careers. We hope those considering a career in medicine will be attracted to the use of new technology and appreciate we're offering something different. We also hope other medical schools across the country will also be inspired to engage with Virtual Medics™."

Professor Anthony Warrens, Dean for Education, Queen Mary University of London, comments: "I am delighted that we are, yet again, at the forefront of using innovating technology to improve our students' learning experience. We are keen to offer our students the very best opportunity to learn new skills and develop their knowledge and understanding. Shafi Ahmed has already made significant contributions to the educational experience of our students and I am very pleased that he is breaking yet new ground with this initiative."

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