The Virtual Pathology Instructor: a medical student teaching tool developed using patient simulator software

Hum Pathol. 2014 Oct;45(10):1985-94. doi: 10.1016/j.humpath.2014.06.007. Epub 2014 Jun 26.


Virtual microscopy has been adopted by many medical schools but often without addressing the need for students to understand how to integrate slide observations with other diagnostic information. The goal of this study was to develop an innovative tool for teaching pathology to medical students that presents a variety of virtual materials necessary for a complete pathology evaluation. The Virtual Pathology Instructor (V-PIN) is patient simulation software (vpSim) created and supported by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Laboratory for Educational Technology, and allows students to assume the role of a diagnostic pathologist. V-PIN utility was demonstrated by educationally significant improvement between pretest and posttest scores for 2 cases (mean, 3.8 versus 4.2; P = .0007; 1.9 versus 3.0; P = .0001). A third case did not perform as well (mean, 2.5 versus 2.3; P = .12) but detailed evaluation of the performance of the case identified possible improvements. Maximum posttest performance was seen following both the traditional workshop and the V-PIN case as compared to the case alone (posttest 4.2 versus 3.0; P < .0001). No significant difference was identified in student progress through V-PIN cases taken before or after the related traditional workshop, as demonstrated by total time on task, number of steps to complete, total score, number of incorrect answers, and number of requests for V-PIN help. Patient simulation software is an effective tool for teaching pathology to medical students and can provide individual instruction and immediate feedback as well as identify opportunities to refine and enhance the educational experience.

Keywords: Medical education; Pathology teaching; Patient simulation; Virtual microscopy; Whole slide imaging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / methods*
  • Humans
  • Pathology, Clinical / education*
  • Software*
  • Students, Medical
  • User-Computer Interface*