Integrating histology and histopathology teaching in practical classes using virtual slides


  • Rakesh K. Kumar,

    Corresponding author
    • Department of Pathology, School of Medical Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney 2052, Australia
    Search for more papers by this author
    • Dr. Kumar is a professor in the Department of Pathology at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and is actively involved in teaching and curriculum development for medicine and science students. His research interests are in the role of cytokines and growth factors in the pathogenesis of asthma.

    • Fax: 61-2-93851389

  • Brian Freeman,

    Search for more papers by this author
    • Dr. Freeman is an associate professor in the Department of Anatomy at UNSW. He teaches gross, microscopic, and developmental anatomy and is the director of teaching for the School of Medical Sciences. His field of research is human embryology and he recently translated Anatomie und Ontogenese des Menschen into English.

  • Gary M. Velan,

    Search for more papers by this author
    • Dr. Velan is a senior lecturer in the Department of Pathology at UNSW and head of teaching for the discipline. He is involved in curriculum development, teaching, assessment, and evaluation of courses for medicine and science students. His re-search is based on the effects of innovations in teaching and assessment practices on student learning.

  • Patrick J. De Permentier

    Search for more papers by this author
    • Mr. de Permentier is a lecturer in the Department of Anatomy, UNSW, and teaches gross anatomy, histology, and embryology to medicine, science, and biomedical engineering students. His principal interests are in the further development of cross-disciplinary teaching and in course assessment and evaluation.


The new medicine program at the University of New South Wales employs scenario-based learning with vertically integrated classes of year 1 and year 2 students, as well as horizontally integrated teaching with no discipline-specific courses. Coinciding with its introduction, we undertook comprehensive revision of the approach to teaching microscopic anatomy and pathology. We designed practical classes around virtual slides, which are high-magnification digital images of tissue sections stored in a multiresolution file format, viewable in a Web browser in a manner closely simulating conventional microscopy. In these classes, we integrated the teaching of histology and histopathology, introducing students to the microscopic features of tissues and organs, and giving them the opportunity to compare and contrast the normal with the abnormal in various disease states. Members of academic staff from both anatomy and pathology were present to promote discussion and respond to questions. Worksheets defined learning objectives and provided clinical cases as contexts for learning in each class. Evaluation revealed that students strongly supported the integrated approach. The efficiency of the teaching method meant that it was possible to work through 5–8 virtual slides per 2-hr class without difficulty. Students displayed considerable initiative in exploring the histological features of tissues, identifying the changes in various pathological states, and recognizing their relationship to clinical manifestations. We believe that the approach we have developed should help to minimize the potential adverse impact of curriculum reform on the teaching of morphology, while ensuring that learning remains both meaningful and interesting. Anat Rec (Part B: New Anat) 289B:128–133, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.