By Dolly Rairigh Glass

TO members at mt3Team Orlando members are no strangers when it comes to the benefit of collaboration and partnership, and recently were front and center as presenters at the 2012 Medical Training, Technology and Treatment (MT3) conference in Orlando May 9-12, a conference dedicated to bridging traditional and military medicine while identifying areas of collaboration and partnership. The conference focuses on leading-edge technology and academic trends that change the way healthcare professionals are trained, and brought to the forefront things like computer simulation, training through gaming, and long distance training and treatment using internet technology.

The Army’s Current Focus in Medical Training and Simulation
Moderating the session, “MT3 Government Growth Opportunities in Healthcare and Medicine,” Beth Pettitt, Chief, Medical Simulation Research Branch, US Army Research Laboratory, Human Research and Engineer Division, Simulation Training and Technology Center, began the discussion with a description of her agency’s on-going projects, and focused portfolio.

Pettitt highlighted several of the programs she oversees and updated attendees on the status and future of each, pointing out that some of these ideas came to the research lab because someone in the field expressed a need for it. “We work with many academic and industry partners,” said Pettitt. “It’s extremely important for our success moving forward that we continue to cultivate these great collaboration opportunities.”

One of those ideas she referred to was V-Xtract, a training platform developed for the U.S. Army to effectively prepare medics and combat lifesavers for the tasks of extricating and providing care for casualties in the event of vehicle rollovers. It creates a realistic, measurable training experience leveraging a suite that includes an adjustable vehicle with camera capabilities, and is designed to be integrated with existing low-cost mannequins.

Pettitt also discussed the ARL’s focus on a brand new effort of merging virtual patients and virtual worlds, a hot topic of conversation at MT3.“The idea with this is that we have lots of things that are really focused on virtual patients, mostly with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) right now,” said Pettitt. “But we are starting to broaden into the more traditional medical treatment domain.”

“In our opinion you need some sort of combination of these two (virtual worlds and virtual patients) to support that type of treatment paradigm.” She added, “Although there are lots of other ways we could do this, they would lack fidelity, and we want the high end virtual patient in the high end virtual world.”

Additionally, Pettitt talked about the continuation of the Multiple Amputation Trauma Trainer (MATT), it’s tremendous effort for lower body research, and the development of the upper body/high fidelity chest. It now includes the addition of pain recognition to a mannequin’s face, and the ability to simultaneously learn pain management while learning to care for the simulated mannequin or simulated wounded soldiers, all of these totally focused on the top three causes of death in the battlefield.

And of course, when it comes to smells, Pettitt admits the military has been very successful in this area, and are particularly good at producing foul odors. “When you start looking at smells in medicine, it is a little bit different, and perhaps even a little bit trickier,” said Pettitt. “The problem is helping our learners connect those smells with what it might be indicating for a medical condition.”

These programs help the learners prepare for what smells they can expect, as well as helping them recognize smells that could be indicating some problem they haven’t seen yet. This preparation helps them overcome these smells, so when they experience it in the fields, they are not getting sick themselves.

What the research has shown is that typically, the first time the learners smell the odor, it’s not a problem. “We want the trainee to have experienced the situation enough times in training to correctly associate the malodor with the incident and still provide proper care in the stress of a combat situation,” said Pettitt.

Whether it’s game based training systems like the award-winning TC3SIM, using holograms with amazing 3D models for medical training, continuing the work for the most realistic simulated tissues to reduce live tissue use, or even their newest project to develop a repository of training scenarios that could be used at different training locations to try to minimize duplications, the Army Research Lab continues its work toward solutions, partnering and collaborating with those who have the same mission.

“With all simulation technologies, we’re never really done,” said Pettitt. “The human body is so amazingly complex, there will be new simulation and training challenges for many years.”

(Pictured from left to right): LTC Ariza, Beth Pettitt, Matthew Lineberry, and Harry Robinson were some Team Orlando members taking part in the MT3 conference.