Made-at-UBC app changing the way medical students learn radiology

During her first years in medical school at UBC, Kathryn Darras remembers her excitement at discovering radiology. As a highly-visual learner, she knew that the specialty was a perfect fit for her.

Dr. Kathryn Darras and her team are helping to transform how radiology is taught and learned.

After finishing her UBC radiology residency, Dr. Darras is now a nuclear medicine fellow using technology to share her enthusiasm for radiology with the next generation of medical students. With the UBC Radiology Teaching App, she and her team are transforming how radiology is taught and learned.

“Radiology touches almost all parts of medicine,” says Dr. Darras, “We wanted to create an interactive tool that would make radiology not only accessible, but exciting for learners.”

Based off of the UBC radiology curriculum, it is the first open-access app in the world designed as a curriculum for medical students, as well as the first app to be based on UBC coursework.

The innovative app uses real x-ray, CT, MRI and ultrasound images to help students learn how to read images. It also provides access to more than 60 real-life clinical cases, 500 anatomy questions and various quizzes that students can use to test their knowledge.

The UBC Radiology Teaching app uses real x-ray, CT, MRI and ultrasound images.

To create the app, Dr. Darras partnered with recent UBC family medicine graduate Dr. Matthew Toom, who is also a software engineer. At the start of the project, the team did a study to find out what students were looking for.

“We found that students wanted to have a lot of opportunity to test their knowledge, with a direct connection to the curriculum,” says Dr. Darras.

The result is an interactive app designed to follow students from their first day of medical school through graduation and beyond. Since its launch in 2016, the app has been downloaded nearly 55,000 times, helping learners around the globe to build their skills.

The app is a clear success with UBC medical students, who appreciate how easy it is to have the radiology curriculum in the palm of their hand.

“The way the app is designed, it’s easy and effective to use even if you only have a couple of minutes,” says James Nugent, a third-year medical student at UBC.  “It’s as simple as scrolling through your Instagram feed.”

Classmate Rebecca Spouge credits it with helping her to better understand the role of imaging in the work of a doctor:

“I think I probably speak for many of my peers when I say the app has really increased my interest and understanding when it comes to radiology,” says Spouge.

“It has opened my eyes to how central radiology is to the day-to-day work of a physician.”

The UBC Radiology Teaching App was made possible with a $36,000 grant from UBC’s Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund (TLEF). It was supported by Dr. Bruce Forster, UBC Department of Radiology Head and Director of the Faculty of Medicine’s Office of Education Innovation, and Dr. Savvas Nicolaou, Department of Radiology Vice Chair of Undergraduate Education and Continuing Professional Development.

It has been nominated for several awards and has been presented at scientific conferences. It is accredited by UBC CPD as a Self-Assessment Program (Section 3), as defined by the Maintenance of Certification Program (MOC) of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.