KU School of Medicine-Wichita students use virtual reality to better understand patients with brain conditions

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WICHITA, Kan (KSNW) – More than 6 million — that’s how many Americans live with Alzheimer’s Disease. The disease kills more people than breast cancer or prostate cancer combined.

These government statistics are just some of the reasons why KU School of Medicine in Wichita is preparing doctors to treat and care for their patients in a new way.

At , KU School of Medicine-Wichita 3rd-year students are getting to go into a whole new reality to understand Alzheimer’s Disease and Lewy body dementia.

“It was nice to know, you know, hear the things they may see or hear, how life would be in their eyes,” said Chidinma Iweha, a 3rd-year med student.

Empathy and understanding are lessons and attributes in the medical field that Dr. Tiffany Schwasinger-Schmidt said is important.

“Over time, with all the demands of clinical practice, all of the demands we put on them, as far as needing to know everything and experience everything, we do see that empathy is one thing that can start to slip over time,” said Dr. Tiffany Schwasinger-Schmidt, assistant professor at KU School of Medicine-Wichita.

For the first time, some KU Med students are getting a glimpse into what their future patients may be going through and experiencing thanks to virtual reality headsets.

“Gaps in time that move by very quickly, jumbling up of words, what’s it like to go shopping, and have things being very, very confusing,” said Schwasinger-Schmidt.

“My grandma had Alzheimer’s Disease, so it is just kind of an interesting perspective, like I said, a good insight into what she was experiencing,” said Eric Stringfield, a 3rd-year KU School of Medicine-Wichita student.

The school is also partnering with a local at-home health organization to give students the opportunity to put their new perspectives into practice.

“I want to because I want to be able to not only listen to my patients but be by their side and feel what they are going through,” Iweha said.

The next step is taking the program into the community and making more people understand what it is like to go through these conditions.

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