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Dr. Lecat using the Ventriloscope

Dr. Lecat’s Ventriloscope

It’s always been a challenge to educate medical students on what different sounds mean when using a traditional stethoscope. Students would typically practice on Standardized Patients and other students, meaning they would only typically encounter the sounds coming from a healthy heart.

To fix this, Paul Lecat, M.D., professor of Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, and Family and Community Medicine, invented a device that can help students learn as if they were working with patients, facing the array of conditions they will one day encounter.

Using new technology to educate

Dr. Lecat is educating students using his invention, the Ventriloscope.

The device is similar to a stethoscope, but is also able to mimic sounds made by various conditions, such as a heart murmur. It can play multiple sounds over the same area, is wireless, simple to operate, and multiple accessories are available. These can include a heart trigger that can synchronize to the patient’s pulse; a lung trigger that can synchronize breathing; and a clinical skills learning system, which includes several interactive videos to explain the invention’s use in a more in-depth manner.

So far, the Ventriloscope has been used in over 437 schools in 24 countries – including NEOMED. When Dr. Lecat recently hosted the first large-group exercise with the device at NEOMED, students responded positively, he said.

Since initially creating the Ventriloscope in 2005, Dr. Lecat has obtained 14 patents for the device and one of the largest libraries of sounds made by heart conditions.

Asked where he came up with the inspiration for this device, Dr. Lecat explained that he believes examinations are not as thorough as they used to be.

“Technology is important in the follow-up to a physical exam, but technology will never replace the physical exam. It should be that a physical exam directs us to use technology efficiently and intelligently, without overburdening our patients,” he said.

This line of thought led him to invent the Ventriloscope.

Using the Ventriloscope in the classroom

Dr. Lecat recalled that when he was the medical director of Wasson Center for Clinical Skills Training, Assessment, and Scholarship, students would have to conduct thorough examinations but then be given a paper with all the abnormal physical findings. With the Ventriloscope, students can conduct those physical examinations and make their own findings accurately.

Dr. Lecat stated, “It is much easier for students to learn about — and hear – heart , lung and other sounds ‘in context.’ This means hearing sounds integrated with a case with symptoms and putting the stethoscope on a live person — not just hearing sounds through headphones or speakers or listening to a mannequin.”

The next steps for his invention, he said, are to develop more cases incorporating an exam with the Ventriloscope and perhaps a video ‘textbook’ of exam techniques that are being lost.


Correction: Dr. Lecat’s title was originally listed as director of Student Affair in the College of Medicine. His correct title is professor of Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, and Family and Community Medicine.