He stands at average height and sports close-cropped brown hair a few shades darker than his full lips. A creamy complexion and trim physique make him an exemplary model of the male form. And with one brush of a finger, he loses it—starting with his skin.

Just one touch causes his dermis to peel away. Fat, muscle and organs are the next to go. Layer by layer, he loses tissue until he is nothing more than a gleaming skeleton rendered in crystal-clear 3-D on a digital touchscreen.

“Victor,” as he is called, and his female counterpart, “Vicky,” are the two extremely detailed digital cadavers featured on the Anatomage table. At 7 feet long and 3 feet high, it looks like a giant smartphone and is the centerpiece of the cutting-edge new home of Mississippi State University-Meridian’s kinesiology program.

“I am constantly getting emails or phone calls from individuals interested in kinesiology,” explained Laura Hilton, interim program coordinator and director of the clinical physiology labs. “Now that we have this building and equipment, we really have something to show them.”

The MSU-Meridian kinesiology program, which launched in 2014, moved into the I.A. Rosenbaum building in January. Formerly known as the Kress building, it is part of the division’s downtown Riley campus and was renovated through an $11 million gift from The Riley Foundation. This funding, with additional support from Mississippi Power, also facilitated establishment of the degree program including the purchase of state-of-the-art educational tools like the Anatomage table.

An $85,000 investment, the table is the only one of its kind in the state of Mississippi.

“Nobody is using this table the way we plan to use it, as a supplemental teaching tool,” Hilton said. “It allows us to show the anatomy of the body and how intricate, detailed and amazing it is.”

The life-sized images of “Victor” and “Vicky” are the next best thing to observing real human tissue because they are based on high-resolution scans of actual cadavers. Those bodies, which were donated to science, were dissected and scanned layer by layer in extremely thin intervals. When compiled, the collected scans created 3-D digital cadavers that showcase the human body in almost lifelike detail.

Hilton explained that with the touch of a finger, users can endlessly manipulate the digital cadavers by rotating them or removing layers to expose different body systems. A slice tool allows users to make incisions and dissect the image, essentially performing a digital autopsy.

Laura Hilton (left) points out “Victor’s” anatomical structures while demonstrating the Anatomage table to kinesiology majors (from L-R) junior Joquita Horn, senior Cody Crawford and senior Katherine Timmons. By using the controls along the edge of the screen she can rotate the image, dissect the body and remove layers of tissue to expose different body systems. Photo by Megan Bean
“You have students who like to hear the information and others who learn by sight or touch,” Hilton said. “This really allows us to hit on the different ways students learn and gives us the
ability to reach a lot of people.”

“This table gives us the educational benefits of working with a cadaver, without the cost of establishing a cadaver lab or exposing students to that chemical-filled environment,” Hilton explained. “Real cadavers can be hard to obtain and once you’ve studied it, that’s it.

“These digital cadavers have an undo button, so we can start from scratch with each class as many times as we need, on this one table, right in the classroom,” she continued.

In addition to the detailed 3-D bodies, the Anatomage database also has a variety of CT and MRI scans that can be displayed on the table to illustrate certain diseases and conditions that are discussed in kinesiology classes.

“You have students who like to hear the information and others who learn by sight or touch,” Hilton said. “This really allows us to hit on the different ways students learn and gives us the
ability to reach a lot of people.”

Hilton said she hopes the kinesiology program at Meridian can contribute to the area’s flourishing medical community by producing well-rounded graduates who will pursue advanced degrees in medical fields.

“We want to develop these students and give them a foundation here in Meridian, so they’ll go out and get graduate degrees then come back and help our community,” Hilton explained.

Cody Crawford, who graduates in August, said he and many of his classmates plan to continue their studies in physical and occupational therapy, medical and even dental schools.

“With this program’s focus on clinical exercise physiology, the things we learn set a good foundation for graduate studies,” the Meridian native explained. “I plan to go into physical therapy with a focus on the elderly. It’s a growing population that’s increasing the need for reliable health care.”

Through the Meridian campus’s kinesiology program and its cutting-edge equipment, Hilton wants to establish connections with the local medical community, which includes Anderson Regional and Rush health systems.

“This equipment gives us an advantage as far as education is concerned, but it also gives us a tool to help build relationships with local hospitals and clinics,” Hilton said. “By having a back and forth between our program and the medical community, we can better understand its needs and how we can help fill them through our work and the students we produce.”

By Susan Lassetter | Video by David Garraway