James Cheverud, PhD
Biology Chair & Professor
BIOL 452: Anatomy & Physiology I
MAMS Teaching Philosophy
My teaching philosophy in the MAMS program is to do my best to prepare the students for their future careers in medicine. I have taught freshman medical students Human Gross Anatomy for over 30 years and try to provide a course up to the same standards as those I have taught in medical schools. Of course, without dissection it is not possible to expect the same level of learning and understanding but I strive to provide an experience that will help prepare them for their future freshman medical student experience. First, we cover anatomy using a regional rather than a systems-based approach. This allows a more complete functional and clinical understanding than would be possible from considering each system separately. Second, while the lecture material is covered at a slower pace than typical in a medical school environment much of the same ground is covered, but in less depth. I use the peripheral nervous system to organize the other anatomical structures. Basic concepts of blood flow, such as anastomoses and collateral circulation, are also covered along with some imaging anatomy. After successfully completing this course, MAMS students will be well-prepared for one of their most challenging freshman courses.
The course involves learning at three different levels. As with any anatomy course, students are expected to learn the language of anatomy, the names of the structures and spatial relationship terms. They are encouraged to study in groups and talk-the-talk with each other, as I use it in class. Second, the students need to learn the anatomical functions of the structures. This is not taught by memorization, although it can be memorized, but by using general rules and patterns relating structure and position to function. These tools allow students to deduce function from structure and position. Finally, the students are taught how to use this functional information to interpret clinical presentations and to deduce the clinical consequences of specific injuries. It is more important in this course to include all three of these aspects than to include information on every structure in the human body.
Material is presented in lectures using PowerPoint slides made available before the lecture. The visuals are taken from Netter’s Atlas of Anatomy and various other sources I have developed over the years. The students need to use Netter’s as if it were their cadaver. We also use Moore’s anatomy textbook but I do not lecture from the book. I try to explain to the students that we will cover a lot of material and that study strategies they may have used with great success as undergraduates will not work in this course. They need to keep up every day with the material. ‘Cramming’ for a night or two before the exam or starting their study in the week before the exam will not suffice for this course, as it doesn’t suffice in medical anatomy.
Course evaluation includes a series of take-home anatomical problems covering the second and third levels discussed above. These are not so much quizzes as exercises to help the students integrate their knowledge. I encourage the students to work on these in groups and discuss them amongst themselves. I also suggest they make up their own questions covering additional material for their discussions. The answers are provided after they turn the assignment in. These assignments account for 18% of the final grade. The primary evaluation tool consists of three regional anatomy exams; Thorax & Abdomen, Pelvis, Perineum, & Limbs, and Head & Neck, worth 27%, 27%, and 28% of the grade respectively. There is no cumulative exam. These exams are “slide practicals” displaying anatomical structures and asking a short series of questions on structures, functions, and clinical diagnosis and consequences of failure. Students have 1’45” to answer each of 25 questions over the period of fifty minutes. This is meant to be a very challenging style of exam and grades are adjusted accordingly.