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Practicing on a Plastic Patient

Next L.A. / A look at issues, people and ideas helping
to shape the emerging metropolis | The Next Wave

March 05, 1996|RUSS LOAR

Harvey is no dummy.

The $115,000 manikin with the baby blue eyes can simulate symptoms of about 30 cardiovascular diseases, helping medical students learn to recognize an array of heart-related problems.

Harvey is the first cardiology training simulator of its kind in the state. It was unveiled last month at the UC Irvine College of Medicine.

Medical educators say patient simulation is the wave of the future.

"If tomorrow you take a trip to New York City and the pilot comes out of the cockpit and says, 'Don't worry about it, I just passed my multiple-choice questionnaire and I did very well,' that is not going to reassure you," said Dr. Alberto Manetta of the UC Irvine medical school.

"You would like that pilot to be in a simulator, putting in a lot of hours under many different conditions. We expect the same thing to be applied to medicine."

There are only about 30 simulators like Harvey in the United States, according to Robert Wesley, assistant dean of medical education at UC Irvine. Harvey, created by the University of Miami School of Medicine, is connected to a computer that trains and tests students.

Harvey's lifelike skin is clammy to the touch, his legless torso appears to breathe and his pulse can be felt at various points on his body.

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