It was approximately the winter of 1999 when Dr. Usha Reddy called me to see if I could come up with a project using animations. Dr. Reddy, a family practitioner for over 25 years in Man West Virginia, and now a student pursuing a degree in multimedia, graphics & animations at the Los Angeles Institute of Art. As a student, she had to do several projects for which she invariably used medical themes - and one such theme was on Hemoglobin A1c. When she showed me this animation and I was fascinated and understood for the first time the importance of making things clear and simple to patients in order to achieve more compliance with treatment.
As a pediatric hematologist, I often found myself drawing the coagulation cascade, pictures of blood cells on paper towels while explaining to patients and students and residents. Many of them would take the drawings home. When Dr. Reddy called, I felt that perhaps here was an opportunity, not only to show the pictures, but show them alive! If patients and students and health professional would understand the basic concepts, it would not only generate interest in the subject, but would lead to improved care.
Another reason we decided to develop the animations was for truly altruistic purposes. As medical students from a third world country, Dr. Reddy and I found access to books prohibitively expensive and inaccessible and were envious of the vast knowledge that was available to students in the USA. Knowledge is something that should be shared and sharing knowledge will improve humanity and may perhaps lead to a better understanding of the subject matter and eventually improved care of patients. We felt that allowing access of all persons to the animations on the web may accomplish this.
During my sabbatical at the Centers for Disease Control in 2002, Dr. Reddy and I receive a lot of encouragement and constructive criticism from Dr. Bruce Evatt, Director of the Hematologic Disease Branch. Besides being very particular regarding the accuracy of the animations, he shared with us his lecture notes on a biochemistry class on coagulation that he routinely conducted for the Emory medical students. These notes and quiz questions were later incorporated into the animations.
In the beginning I would put down the concepts of coagulation on a PowerPoint slide and email them to Dr. Reddy. This was followed by a phone call and sometimes by in-person meetings to explain the various aspects of coagulation. The explanation had to be simple and understandable. I was truly amazed as to how accurate one had to be to depict the concepts in an animation. This led to a lot of reading and referring to books and journal articles. Dr. Reddy would take the PowerPoint and explanations and come up with her own imagination of how things worked. We then set up a private web site that would allow us to make changes, correct the animations and text. While this was fun to do, it was a lot of work, involving mostly weekends and weeknights due to clinical commitments on both our parts.
As we became more adept at using the animation techniques, we expanded into other subject matter related to the field of coagulation. There is no doubt that this method of teaching is innovative, has endless possibilities. One can go as far as one’s imagination leads.
Our goal is that these animations will lead to better understanding of the subject. Instead of the archaic teaching methods, as we broach a new millennium, we need to be innovative and keep up with the future generation