The University of Iowa
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us

University of Iowa News Release

Oct. 6, 2004

Dee, Heidger, Leaven Receive UI Technology Innovation Award

Two faculty members and a staff member in the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine have been awarded the 2004 UI President's Award for Technology Innovation, which recognizes the most creative use of technology in teaching in the past year.

Fred Dee, M.D.(left, top), professor, and Timothy Leaven (right), instructional designer, both in the UI Department of Pathology, and Paul Heidger, Ph.D.(left, bottom), professor in the UI Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, were honored for their work on the Virtual Slidebox ( The award, which carries a $3,000 prize, was announced at the University Convocation Oct. 5.

The Virtual Slidebox, which has been supported in part by a grant from the National Library of Medicine, gives medical students access via the Web to more than 1,000 digitized slides of magnified images of human tissue and cells. Histology and pathology specimens that are preserved and mounted on glass slides and traditionally examined using a microscope can now be viewed by students anytime and anywhere they have access to a personal computer.

In regular classroom use since 2001, the Virtual Slidebox allows students to access and view the images outside of the laboratory, which facilitates independent, outside-of-the-classroom learning. The slides are now available to students at other medical schools via the Web, as well.

The virtual slides offer the same visual quality as traditional glass slides. Each virtual slide is made up of as many as 1,200 contiguous microscopic images of a glass slide, tiled into a seamless whole through software developed by MicroBrightField Inc. of Colchester, Vt. and Aperio Technologies of Vista, Calif. A third technology, which is a derivative of Kodak's Flashpix, compresses the digital information into a file that is placed on a file server. Users can select various magnifications and can examine specific areas of the slides in detail. Other features of the Virtual Slidebox include online annotations and supplemental images such as the gross anatomy and radiographs of the tissue that indicate where the tissue comes from within an organ.

Dee, Leaven, Heidger and their colleagues have continuously evaluated the Virtual Slidebox since its inception and have found no significant difference in learning as measured by student performance on exams. Student feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, especially with respect to accessibility and efficiency of learning.

In addition to the UI, more than a dozen colleges and universities in the United States, as well as Australia and Switzerland, contributed slides for use in the Virtual Slidebox. An increasing number of universities are now requesting the entire virtual slide set, which consists of more than 100 gigabytes of digital information, so they can provide the slides to their students on their own file servers and develop their own educational interfaces.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Science Relations, 5139 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1178

MEDIA CONTACT: David Pedersen, (319) 335-8032,