17 December 1998

Virtual lesson in breast cancer has many virtues

An interactive CD ROM which gives medical students and remote area doctors a "virtual tour" of all aspects of the diagnoses, treatment and management of breast cancer is winning recognition for its University of Queensland designers.

It is planned for use by 11 universities around Australia, while four medical schools are in the middle of an evaluation/trial period.

The CD ROM for Cameo~B (Curriculum for Australian Medical Education in Oncology - Breast), a joint project between the University and the National Breast Cancer Centre (NBCC), was shortlisted as a finalist in the Best Higher Education Site or Title in last month's prestigious Australian Interactive Multimedia Industry Association (AIMIA) awards.

It has also been nominated in the Australian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education (ASCILITE) awards to be announced at the society's annual conference at the University of Wollongong on December 14.

The CD ROM was also nominated in the Queensland Information Technology and Telecommunications awards announced this month. (November 14)

The University's Educational Multimedia Services (EMS) with the Social and Preventive Medicine Department under Professor Ken Donald, in association with Professor Sally Redman of the NBCC, began development of the CD ROM in November 1996.

Cameo~B, officially launched by Federal Health Minister Dr Michael Wooldridge in July, is a curriculum for medical education and is primarily aimed at students, enabling them to enter the workforce with an understanding of breast cancer issues.

However, it may also be used to assist isolated-area general practitioners to update their knowledge.

Interacting with the CD-ROM, the user plays the role of a generic medical practitioner, passing through the processes of history taking, examination, initial assessment, referrals, management and follow-up, enabling the user to make clinical decisions with three different patients.

The women represented in the package are all diagnosed with breast cancer at different stages of the disease. Choices and decisions made by the user affect the outcome of each patient's health and well-being.

Cameo~B encompasses basic and clinical sciences; doctor and patient (communication and clinical skills); the patient in context; and personal and professional development.

The CD ROM also features a library of resources including a range of text, graphics and video which can be used at any time while using the package, without the need to start or complete cases.

Lara Strassburger, the Cameo~B CD ROM Instructional Design and Project Manager at EMS, says it is probably best used in combination with lectures and tutorials, although individual users had to take into account their own circumstances and priorities.

"The results found following the evaluation/trial period will assist us in assessing the best scenario for its use," Ms Strassburger said.

"It is fully comprehensive, so it is feasible for use without tutorials and lectures. Some universities will replace face-to-face teaching and others will use it with tutorials and lectures.

"It is also ideal as a professional development tool for GPs."

The package has already attracted the interest of universities outside Australia and could be in use overseas by the end of next year.

For further information, telephone Ms Strassburger on 3365-2322, or Cecelia Boyd on 3365-5346, or e-mail info@.ems.uq.edu.au