S J M O'Connor, Cathy Burton, John Blase, William Curson, J Doughty, Tracy Jayne Lightfoot, Andrew Jack

Research output: Contribution to conferenceOtherpeer-review


Traditionally, acquiring laboratory skills involved donning a white coat and physically carrying out tests at the bench. There is a need in the age of ‘Modernising Scientific Careers’ with regional cancer-networks and a ‘Knowledge & Skills’ based workforce to have higher specialist training for clinicians, clinical scientists and other scientists. Higher specialist training in newly emerging specialist disciplines such as Haematopathology is difficult to acquire, it involves cross-disciplinary knowledge and training remains patchy. Short courses are available for some aspects of specialist training but these often involve attending residential courses away from the site of employment. These short courses serve a useful purpose but there are many key skills that are not covered by training courses and individuals wishing to specialise must create their own training program. Distance learning courses are popular and are successful in delivering traditional academic material. However, these courses whilst good at teaching theoretical knowledge fail to teach practical bench skills. Yorkshire and Humberside cancer network have established a model to teach practical skills via distance learning. The Haematological Malignancy Diagnostic Service (HMDS), St James's Institute of Oncology in partnership with the Epidemiology and Genetics Unit (EGU), York University has developed a Masters degree in Haematopathology that is delivered via a virtual learning environment (VLE). A novel aspect is the teaching of practical skills using a virtual laboratory, SimLab®. The course consists of six modules, three academic and three practical laboratory based. During practical modules students enter SimLab® and carry out their laboratory work using a novel program SimTest®. Students are given a series of cases based on original cases seen in HMDS. Cases cover a wide range of haematological malignancies. The structure of the course is unconventional as case time is allocated according to disease incidence i.e. chronic lymphocytic leukaemia cases are assessed frequently. Students will ‘screen’ the biopsy by assessing clinical information and looking at morphological images or virtual slides of the tissue biopsy. Students can order a range of tests, raw data/primary results will be available electronically for analysis/interpretation. Tests include morphology, multi-colour flow cytometry, immunohistochemistry, molecular cytogenetics (FISH/karyotype images), and PCR/gene sequencing (gel images or raw sequence text file). Where this course differs from others that provide case studies is that the students have the same starting material that is available in the ‘real’ laboratory. They are free to make mistakes. To mimic real life as much as possible the students have time and sample constraints imposed. Students should acquire the skills needed in an integrated haematopathology service. We believe that virtual laboratories such as SimLab® and SimTest® offer a solution to some of the problems of delivering higher specialist training.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages404
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Event14th Congress of the European Hematology Association - Berlin , United Kingdom
Duration: 4 Jun 20097 Jun 2009


Conference14th Congress of the European Hematology Association
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom

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