You’d think medicine would be the last holdout against virtual reality. After all, the body is the body — solid flesh, no faking it, no escaping it. We may turn books into bytes, create driverless cars and soldierless wars; but even patched with plastic and titanium and attached to external electric circuits, the body is still where medicine does business.
Not that we haven’t tried to circumvent it. We have created virtual patients of all varieties; we have sleek external tools to inspect messy internal organs. In the end, we always snap back to reality.
Our students are the ones most burdened by that transition from the virtual to the real: Virtual medicine is created for them. Decades ago, a plastic doll designed to simulate a dying patient was trademarked “Resusci Anne.” A generation of doctors and nurses learned CPR on her plastic chest, and then went on to learn that real chests feel very different, that real ribs reliably crack under pressure.