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A Table, a Teacher, and Tools Highlight JSerra Medical Magnet Studies
High school students stand around an anatomage table.

The seniors in Dr. Betty Cappelletti's senior genetics class gather around a seven-foot table.
As they look down, the students view life-size, 3D representations of actual cadavers.

There is something a little different in one, however.

It has a bullet hole in the side of the skull.

By hitting a few buttons, students can examine an x-ray of the skeleton. They can pull up the skull and rotate it and examine the wound and trauma in the skull, the path of the bullet, and where it ended up lodged on the far side of the brain.

The representation is of an anonymous cadaver, one of four real bodies -- two male, two female -- programmed into the table.

The Anatomage Table is the latest addition to Cappelletti's Medical Magnet Program at JSerra. Cappelletti was able to procure the table, the only one of its kind currently in use in an Orange County Catholic School, thanks to a grant from the Emerson Family Foundation and in memory of Connie Emerson.

On the table is a plaque recognizing the donation and a quote from Hippocrates: "Wherever the art of medicine is loved, there is also a love of humanity."

The Anatomage Table can be used for a wide array of instructional purposes, including "virtual dissection, living anatomy and physiology simulation pathology studies."

In addition to x-rays, the table can display digitally displayed organs, veins and the entire nervous system. And all can be lifted, enhanced, zoomed in on and examined in 3D. Moreover, anything being observed on the table can also be broadcast on a flatscreen TV monitor for a class of seated students to watch.

"It's so engaging for them," Cappelletti said of the new teaching tool.


Lauren Smith, who graduated this year, has enjoyed her limited experience with the table, which arrived in December. "I had never seen anything like this before," Smith said. "I think we're all amazed by how much information is in it."

Cappelletti said she faced a steep curve in learning how to use the machine and is only "scratching the surface" of its potential and possible applications. The teacher expects to dive in over the summer to learn more about the table, which she likens to "two giant iPads."

"You have to have someone who knows how to use it," Cappelletti said.

Already a program is set up on the table in which students can quiz themselves and each other on different body systems.

"We've already tested ourselves on cranial nerves," Smith said.

Gabby Duran, another 2022 graduate, says younger students will really benefit.

"For incoming freshmen to have four years with it, they're very lucky."

Cappelletti says there's nothing that matches actual hands-on dissections of cadavers. However, since the odds of JSerra having its own cadaver lab are virtually nil, this is the next best thing. And because the representations in the table are of actual bodies, down to edited clinical and case histories, there is a realness that no similar machine matches.

High school students stand around an anatomage table.

The Anatomage Table has been featured at TED2012, PBS, and journals for its presentation of anatomy.

Smith says she hopes to attend medical school after finishing college where she will continue to study STEM classes.

She thinks her time with the table and how close it comes to reality will give her a leg up.

"Most students won't have access to hands-on (learning) until they go to medical school," she said. "It's different learning and we're actually doing it."

Duran appreciated the personal time she was able to get with the table, which Cappelletti is thinking of nicknaming "Eve."

"What's really important is the fact that it's interactive, especially since there are only 12 of us in the class," Duran said.

Medical school technology

Jake Lehman, senior marketing manager for Anatomage, says the machines, which began as teaching tools in medical schools when launched in 2011, have taken off in high schools in the past five or six years and even some middle schools.

Currently there are about 3,000 machines in use worldwide, according to Lehman -- about 2,000 of which are in educational settings and 400-500 in the United States in high schools and middle schools.

JSerra is one of eight high schools in Orange County with the machines and the only Catholic school with one in use.

"The table offers a chance to look at real anatomy that you wouldn't get anywhere but in a cadaver lab," Lehman said.

For students who use the machines, Lehman said, "They can build on how biochemistry and other sciences fit in."

A anamotage table glows in the dark while a hand reaches out and touches the glowing screen.

The table is not the only advanced teaching tool in the class. There is also "Waldo," a computer-operated, 6-foot, 200-pound medical mannequin, or simulated man, in hospital bed and linked to medical monitors. He can breathe, blink, and respond to questions.

Using "Waldo," students learn medical skills such as intubating and inserting IVs and catheters and listening to lungs and hearts for ailments.

In anatomy, students spend time dissecting all manner of creatures.

"Anything I can get my hands on, they dissect," Cappelletti said.

Students also make regular trips to the hospital and shadow doctors on the job as well as studying issues such as medical ethics and subjects such as genetics to deeper levels than most comparable high school medical programs.

Toward the end of their tenures in the magnet program, Cappelletti has each of her graduating seniors record videos thanking their parents. She also creates personalized books for the seniors as mementos of their time in the Medical Magnet program.

One-of-a-kind program

The JSerra Medical Magnet program uses a trademarked curriculum called Project A-Pulse, created by Cappelletti, that is similar to what students will experience in the first year of medical school.

Acceptance to the program is competitive. Students have to take honors math, earn B's or better in magnet courses, maintain a weighted GPA of 3.75, and have a 95 percent attendance record. This year a dozen seniors graduated from the program.

According to Cappelletti, 19 students from the Medical Magnet Program, which was launched in 2011, are attending medical schools and many more have entered health-related fields.

In May, Carlos Solarzano ('13), who started studying in the Medical Magnet program when it was first formed, became the first of the program's students to be accepted to a residency. He will specialize in orthopedics at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.

He credits the Medical Magnet program and Cappelletti for helping him "switch gears" from lifelong attraction to sports and into medicine.

"This program is relatively unique," Solorzano said, adding that many of the things learned at JSerra became particularly valuable once he entered medical school.

He also said the requirements for students to take advanced math and science throughout is a benefit in college.

But his main praise was for Cappelletti.

"She was kind, quiet and approachable. You could trust her," he said. "She wanted all her students to succeed."