ComCom Hot Potato

This post comes from the Communications Committee Talking Points Coordinator, Dr. Krista Rompolski of Drexel University.


The HAPS Annual Conference is less than a week away. I told my students the other day that for an A&P professor, this is Woodstock. They didn’t quite understand, but I’m sure you all do! This is the one event of the year where we can share our unbridled enthusiasm about the human body with people who feel the same, and don’t mind if you talk dissection over dinner.

The Communications Committee is always seeking ways to connect members and non-members with HAPS. As a fun way to keep us connected during the conference days, the ComCom has a special activity to share! Look out for this notebook circulating on the conference floor:

Look for this notebook in Ohio- add your thoughts and doodles, then get a chance to WIN IT on Monday afternoon!
Watch for this notebook in Ohio- add your thoughts and doodles, then get a chance to WIN IT on Monday afternoon!

Think of this as the ComCom version of “hot potato.” I will start passing this notebook around during the social on Saturday evening. Here are the rules:

  1. Keep the notebook for no longer than one hour (if you have it in your possession after 10pm, keep it safe until the following morning).
  2. Using one or two pages, do one of the following:
    • Share a story about how HAPS changed your life in some way
    • Share a best or worst moment in teaching
    • Share a teaching tip; this could be your best advice, or something specific, like a drawing
  3. Include your name, and where you are from. If you would agree to have your contribution shared in the conference wrap up publication, please put an asterisk after your name. I will take some photos of the submissions with asterisks and share those in a conference wrap-up blog post!
  4. If you get the notebook and don’t want to participate, please randomly pass it along. But please pass it to someone you don’t know! We want to connect new HAPSters!

On Monday afternoon, whoever has the notebook at 4pm should return it to me, where the door prize drawings will be taking place. If those directions change due to conference timing or needs, I’ll indicate that in the front of the notebook. One lucky HAPSter will be randomly selected from the door prize pool to go home with this fun collection of HAPS memories/tips/stories!

I can’t wait to see what we come up with, and what we have to share! See you all in May!

Making the Sausage: Revising the HAPS Bylaws in 2018

This year the HAPS board has focused on clarifying our financial instruments and has completed a top-to-bottom review of our policies, procedures, and bylaws.  This sort of work is detail oriented and can drag on, but is necessary for organizational efficiency. Some of the things that the board found during this process were surprising and some were reassuring.  All of the findings reaffirmed the fact that HAPS is in a strong financial position and is focused on ways to help members far into the future.

The proposed set of revisions to the bylaws will increase financial transparency, clear up some confusion about past donations, and improve financial management.  We’ll vote on these revisions at the Annual Conference in Columbus Ohio on May 29th, during the general membership meeting.

So what was reassuring about our finances?  HAPS has grown its donated funds from essentially zero in 2009 (when fundraising began) to nearly $120,000 today.  All these donated funds, and the interest generated from them, have been left untouched since at least 2013 to facilitate growth (HAPS has been funding scholarships out of the operating budget since 2013).  Now that we have a sizable nest egg, the next step is to create a management and spending plan that is both sustainable and prudent. Through the proposed bylaws revisions, the HAPS board has created a new committee to do just that – the HAPS Finances Committee will provide guidance to the board on the management of both donations and general savings.

So what was surprising?  Despite talk of a foundation for years, it turns out that no foundation was ever formally created – and apparently, that is a good thing! A foundation is an body that is formed around some problem or idea. A foundation is not specific to a single organization. For example, one might form a foundation to cure cancer and then give the foundation’s money to anyone working to cure cancer (not just to one institution).  Obviously, HAPS donors never intended to give money to HAPS only to have HAPS give that money to a separate foundation. The HAPS “foundation” was just a misunderstanding of the terms being used, but the idea of supporting HAPS via donations is alive and well.

So what is changing in the bylaws?  There are three main changes.

  1. First, we will be following the suggestions of our attorneys and removing article 17 from the bylaws.  This is the article that specifies a foundation and a bunch of other overly complex financial structures that HAPS does not need.
  2. Second, we will be establishing a restricted endowment to properly channel some past donations.
  3. And third, we will establish the aforementioned Finances Committee to advise the board on proper management of all HAPS funds.

If you’d like to brush up on some of those terms, check out the glossary in the “lots more info” tab in the 2018 conference app.

None of this is as exciting as HAPS Synapse! or any of the Update Speakers or workshops or posters, but governance has its place at an annual meeting.  Hopefully we’ll see you there!

Bodies for Science and Education: The Startling History

Many of us in HAPS have been fortunate to have learned human anatomy either by dissecting human specimens or by working with already dissected bodies. Many of us now teach students using human cadavers as the primary specimens for study in the lab. Beyond that, the anatomical knowledge of the general population results from investigations performed on dissected humans in the past. How many of us have ever considered where the dissected bodies came from? Probably very few; many of us can take for granted the present level of anatomical knowledge. Where these long-gone anatomists obtained their specimens never enters our conscious thought.

Early Asian anatomical art
Early Asian anatomical art

There is a rich history of human dissection dating back to before the start of the Christian era. There are references to human dissection, cadaver investigation, or funerary practices in Egypt, Persia, Babylonia and India that extend back in time over four thousand years. Even then a pattern emerges indicating that those with the least and those guilty of crimes bore the burden of serving as specimens for dissection. There was even a brief period shortly before the Christian era during which human vivisection was practiced on criminals in Egypt.

Over the span of time, bodies have come from multiple sources including debtors, societal outcasts, the mentally ill and strangers, recent unclaimed dead, anatomical oddities and even victims murdered specifically to serve as dissection specimens. Bodies obtained by  “entrepreneur” grave robbers throughout the Renaissance and continuing well into the nineteenth century in Europe and America were the primary supply of bodies for dissection, with bodies stolen from the easily accessed burial sites used by families with few or no real financial assets, and rarely if ever from the much more secure cemeteries of the rich and privileged.

Death mask cast of William Burke and a pocket book made from his skin; Burke was executed in 1828 for murdering people and delivering their bodies to medical school in Edinburgh.
Death mask cast of William Burke and a pocket book made from his skin; Burke was executed in 1828 for murdering people and delivering their bodies to medical school in Edinburgh.

During the nineteenth century in Europe, donation of bodies by family members became legal as a way for the poor to eliminate funeral expenses.  In Tasmania, genocide of the aboriginal population in less than a century largely benefited bone collectors back in England. In America, a booming business in the bodies of African slaves and freeborn blacks signaled another low point in this narrative.

Finally, the successful heart transplant performed in 1967 by Dr. Christian Barnard in South Africa triggered an increased interest in organ transplantation and the importance of organ and body donations. The result was the passage of the first Uniform Anatomic Gift Act in 1968, creating a sustainable system based largely on altruism to provide for both the needs of the transplant community and those of anatomy and medical education.

Hopefully this narrative that chronicles the thoughtless and often diabolical events of the past will spur those of us involved in anatomy and medical education to consider and appreciate the unwilling sacrifices of so many in the past that made the current state of anatomic knowledge possible. As educators, we should play a role in acknowledging, even briefly, this history to our students and the debt of gratitude we owe to so many who have been so wronged in the past.


Bill Perrotti is a HAPS President Emeritus and a professor at Pennsylvania State University.

A Female Body of Knowledge: Cadavers and Caricatures

During research for past HAPS workshops, I was struck by a shift in attitudes toward and uses for dissection in Europe.  It was not always a practice banned by the church and practiced in secret as is often thought. There was a complex combination of factors that left medical men who conducted dissections in a constantly fluctuating position in the eyes of the public, as the use of the female body ranged from a righteous religious exploration to sexually charged education.

Vesalius’ dissection of a female (woodcut image from 1555)
Vesalius’ dissection of a female (woodcut image from 1555)

The context of female dissection in particular has morphed through the centuries – in the Middle Ages the bodies of religious women were dissected to provide evidence of their holiness, and into the Renaissance patrician mothers would be dissected to provide familial medical information.  Dissections were conducted to gain information about women who had value to their communities and families. During the 16th century, dissection became more associated with shame as the bodies of executed criminals were granted to medical men and made into public exhibitions.

As society came to view dissection as a punishment worse than execution itself, the public dissection of women became particularly horrifying. While fear of these punishments was intended to deter criminals, increased association of dissection with negative acts dovetailed with growing religious and social sentiments valuing the burial of a complete body.  Condemned female criminals were rare compared to their male counterparts, partially due to a social bias against executing women. Legal avenues of witnessing the dissection of a female body were scarce.

Anatomical Wax of a female from La Specola in Italy.
Anatomical Wax of a female from La Specola in Italy.

Social mores also prevented most living women from being physically examined in detail, and training new medical men was difficult with a lack of female bodies, living or dead. This led to great creativity in generating alternatives. The 18th century produced a flurry of wax anatomical models, which allowed detailed portrayals of anatomy that could have been helpful in learning the minutiae of the body. The teaching value of these was only as good as the artist involved, however, and these models tended to be posed in ways that did not contribute specifically to their educational worth.  

During the same time, midwifery manuals and anatomical atlases focusing on women were produced with illustrations of reproductive organs combining internal and external perspectives. One 19th century book included paper dolls with articulated joints that could be moved through a pop-up book-like model of the pelvic girdle just to make things a bit more interactive. As three dimensional models became more complex, gynecological models became particularly popular in the 19th century. They were supposed to allow the simulation of birth, and often came often with a matching fabric baby to manually pull through the birth canal.

And while some of the solutions developed to cope with the unavailability of female cadavers may seem odd today, they give us a wonderful window onto the social tug-of-war that occurred between decorum and the urge to know more about the female body!


Danielle Hanson teaches Human Anatomy and Physical Anthropology at several Indiana schools, and has a long held interest in the history of both fields. She has an MS in Anatomy Education, and is a Ph.D. Candidate in Physical Anthropology at Indiana University.

Eduard Pernkopf

Who is Eduard Pernkopf and why should we care?

Eduard Pernkopf was a Nazi. That is the short of it. He also created an anatomical atlas that has become a notorious source of ethical debate since at least the 1990s.

So, who was Eduard Pernkopf?

Pernkopf was an Austrian medical doctor. During World War 1, he served as a military physician for Austria.  After the war, he returned to the University of Vienna and became an Anatomy Instructor for the medical school. By 1928 he was a full professor and by 1933 he was the director of the anatomical institute. Also in 1933, Pernkopf pledged his allegiance to the Nazi party, later becoming a member of the Sturmabteilung, Hitler’s pre-war Stormtroopers.

In 1933, he also started work on his anatomical atlases. Four artists rendered watercolor portraits of his dissections, Pernkopf set out to create the most realistic representations of cadaveric dissections ever available with the caveat that the color be as realistic as possible. Two volumes ended up being published, one in 1937 and one in 1941. By 1941, all four of the artists joined active military or paramilitary service for Germany.

So, why is this atlas so controversial?

In 1938, Pernkopf became Dean of the medical college at the University of Vienna. He immediately expelled all non-Aryan professors; at Vienna, that meant over 75% of the faculty, several of whom would end up dying in concentration camps across occupied German territory. As Dean, Pernkopf enacted a strict racial hygiene approach to medicine. Across occupied Germany, medical schools were teaching that there were inferior anatomical characteristics of non-Aryans like Jews, Gypsies, Romani, and Poles, and homosexuals.

As a footnote to history, no one was forcing these scientists to go along with ideas like racial hygiene. In fact, it seems like the scientists were the driving force behind these ideas. Spurred on by eugenicists in the U.S., Nazi scientists were pushing hard for eugenics in Germany. This lead to forced sterilization, anti-miscegenation and anti-immigrant laws, and euthanasia. These were the three basic prongs of the Nazi Volksgesundheit, or Public Health. By 1934, forced sterilization turned to euthanasia of people deemed mentally feeble. Early euthanasia programs turned to Holocaust as Germans placed non-Aryans in concentration, work, and prison camps.

As you can imagine, a lot of dead bodies meant a steady supply of cadavers for teaching and research at the 31 German or German occupied medical schools in Europe. There is evidence that while Pernkopf was dean, the University of Vienna medical school accepted 1,377 executed prisoners. It was customary that the medical schools would have embalming centers at the execution sites so that cadaveric materials could stay as fresh as possible.

There is questionable imagery within the atlases; images of emaciated cadavers in poor condition. There is also Nazi imagery in the signatures of the artists.

So, we have a bunch of Nazis who were very racist and who used very questionable sources for dissection to make their controversial anatomical atlas.

But, Vienna was bombed by allied forces in 1945. The university sustained heavy damage and the records containing the information about where the bodies used for the atlas came from were destroyed.

Did he use executed prisoners or not? And what should we do about the book?

Come find out and discuss the answers to these questions at the workshop Pernkopf, NAZIs, and MVCC at the 2018 HAPS Conference in Columbus.


This post was written by Aaron Fried, Assistant Professor of Anatomy and Physiology at Mohawk Valley Community College. Thanks to my colleagues and willing editors: Shannon Crocker, Eileen Bush, Don Kelly, Bill Perrotti, Emeritis, and the late Sam Drogo.

 

ABC’s of A&P

It is the ultimate challenge and lifelong pursuit of educators to facilitate learning among students with different educational backgrounds, first languages, and learning styles.  Concurrently, we work to foster individual strengths and ideas that each student brings to our classroom. With no single right way to get through to everyone, each class presents us with the awesome challenge of a lifetime!

So how can we assess our teaching methods and students’ knowledge acquisition without a test? Or better yet, before the test they will ultimately have to take? And how can we make the learning fun?

For me, one answer is a creative project.  Students in Human Anatomy and Physiology spend much of their time memorizing copious facts hoping to apply them at exam time. The act of creating something from those facts is an enjoyable way for students to take material that is complex, break it down into digestible components, tap into their creative side and ultimately ignite different aspects of their brain into flames of learning. One of my favorite creative assignments calls upon students to write a children’s storybook based on a topic we have covered.  Students must capture the big picture and then focus on filling in the details that are most relevant to their own particular stories.

Recently, three of my students created a children’s story after learning about the kidneys.  The title of their story was The Mighty KidneysWheres Sodium?  The “Kid”neys are a group of three friends (shaped like kidneys) who help the kidneys work properly. In the episode Wheres Sodium? there is a problem in the distal convoluted tubule (DCT).  As the “Kid”neys get filtered, and wind their way through a nephron they finally make it to the DCT where they encounter the villain: Caffeine (da da dum). In their story, Caffeine has somehow banished the friendly Al Dosterone.  The students were clever enough to make the shape of Caffeine and Al Dosterone similar enough so that readers could imagine how caffeine might interfere with aldosterone’s action. In the end, the “Kid”neys save the day by contacting the brain’s thirst centers.

In this story, AL Dosterone is the hero!
In this story, AL Dosterone is the hero!

Similar children’s stories submitted for this assignment also show how creative work engages and helps students personally assimilate an overarching theme in Human Anatomy and Physiology. Then the added nuances, unique to each students’ work, display knowledge of details that make the stories informative, engaging and interesting. Usually the illustrations are adorable. Creating a children’s story allows students to assess their understanding by breaking down the material, rebuilding it and adding their own unique subset of details with personal creative essence. Those students who can do this demonstrate their understanding of learning objectives.

Feedback from students who engage in this type of assignment is very positive, initiating comments such as, “We had a lot of fun with this project and hope you enjoy it as much as we did.” As a teacher, reading the stories of my students makes me happy because I know I got through to them with the core material; but then to watch them interact with that material in their own unique way makes me a very proud professor.


Bridgit Goldman has been teaching college level biology since 1998.  She has a Ph.D. in Cellular, Molecular, and Developmental Biology from The Graduate School and University Center of The City University of New York.  Since 2007 she has designed, developed and taught all the lecture and laboratory classes in Human Anatomy and Physiology at Siena College. 

HAPS in podcast form

A message from the HAPS Executive Director, Peter English.
A message from the HAPS Executive Director, Peter English.

Being the Executive Director of HAPS is a great job, in part because I never really know what opportunities are going to present themselves on any given day.  Two weeks ago I got a call from friend and HAPS McGraw-Hill Education exhibitor Jim Connely.  Jim has boundless energy and enthusiasm, so when he calls, you know something cool is going to happen.

And it did!

This particular call was a proposal from Jim to feature HAPS in his Succeed in A&P podcast.  By last week, we had recorded a conversational interview about HAPS and the upcoming Annual Conference in Columbus (May 26-30).  And today that conversation is available to everyone as a podcast (just two weeks from initial phone call to release!).  If you would like to hear more, or if you know of colleagues who might like to hear more about HAPS, this podcast conversation is a great starting point.

For those new to podcasts, they are very similar in concept to an audio book.  The main difference is that a podcast tends to narrowly focus on a topic and to me, podcasts seem like the radio stories or interviews that you might hear on public radio.  Most people I know download their podcasts to their smart phones so that they can listen to them whenever they have a moment – in line, in the car, whenever.  But you can use whatever digital device you prefer – tablet, computer, whatever works for you.

Most digital devices these days come with a program that will allow you to download and listen to podcasts.  If yours did not, then finding an appropriate player is as simple as searching your favorite app store.  Once you’ve got that figured out, all you need to do is follow the links below and you’re in business.

iTunes link      Google Play link     Stitcher Radio link       Podbay link     

HAPS is fortunate to have the support of a whole host of wonderful companies that are all working to make A&P education more effective.  Jim is a great example of the personal effort and earnest desire to help that so many of our exhibitors share.  Listen to the podcast and you will see what I mean.