My Sparkly Pancreas

At the annual HAPS meeting in 2018, I sat with a lovely group of HAPSters over dinner. The topic of mindfulness came up and we each agreed how important it was for us and for our students.

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Going out on a limb, I divulged my personal practice of mindfully exercising. “I battle cancer cells, I eliminate plaque from my arteries, and I always make my pancreas sparkle.” They all looked at me and smiled. A beat of silence. “Did I just disclose my super weirdness?”  I thought.

“How sparkly is your pancreas?” said the head of the HAPS cadaver-use committee.

“Well, if I’m ever your specimen, wear sunglasses. I’m that bright inside,” I joked.

When I exercise, I think about human anatomy and physiology and mindfully review each system of my body. I eradicate perceived (or worrisome) anatomic or physiological problems by picturing that system of my body in its most perfect form. If I’m feeling tense in an area, I send extra focus there. I may walk out of an exercise class looking sweaty and exhausted, but inside, I know I have just activated mechanisms in my body toward health, and mentally that makes me feel invigorated. That energy is then carried with me to the classroom where it gets translated into helping students.

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Current literature* is chock-full of studies on how mindfulness can positively affect a plethora of anatomical and physiological maladies. When I feel a high amount of tension/anxiety in the air in my A&P lectures, I take the opportunity to ask if anyone has ever meditated. We talk about the many benefits from decreased anxiety to neurogenesis. With the anxiety level of our students on the rise, it is my hope that in addition to teaching a strong knowledge base, we can also help students by sharing personal stories of how we cope in our lives.

I share my sparkly pancreas story with students when we talk about diabetes, which runs in my family. Each of us should consider finding a mindfulness practice that works for us. For students, I often recommend meditation as a place to start.

We all know how important genetics, good nutrition, and exercise are for our health. Incorporating mindfulness in the form of meditation can profoundly affect the performance of students and be a coping tool they can use for a lifetime. The personal mindfulness practice I use while exercising helps me to see myself as a healthy, radiant being ready to be the best A&P professor I can be.

*some recent studies that highlight the promising effects of mindfulness practices on health:
Cardiovascular and renal effects
Yoga and stress
Meditating medical students


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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 in Loudonville, NY.

Call for applications from the HAPS Grants and Scholarships Committee

Are you looking for funding to help you attend the 2019 HAPS Annual Conference in Portland?  Then you will be happy to hear the latest news from the HAPS Grants & Scholarships Committee!

There are now 4 HAPS Awards that target four different groups of HAPS members.  Three of these groups have been targeted in previous years:

  • Graduate students and postdocs
  • Contingent faculty
  • Full-time faculty who have taught five or fewer years

But this year we are introducing an additional award for a new group of HAPS members:

  • Full-time faculty who have taught for more than five years

All four of these HAPS Awards are now travel awards, which means that they both cover the cost of conference registration, and provide an additional $400 for partial reimbursement of travel expenses getting to the conference!

In addition to the HAPS awards, there are also three Sponsored Awards:

  • ADinstruments Sam Drogo Technology in the Classroom Award – sponsored by ADinstruments
  • HAPS-Thieme Excellence in Teaching Award – sponsored by Thieme Publishers
  • Gail Jenkins Teaching and Mentoring Award – sponsored by Wiley

Click to get information and applications for all of the HAPS Awards and the Sponsored Awards.

January 4, 2019 is the deadline to apply for all awards and to submit any required letters of recommendation.  Start the application process today!

Questions? Please contact Carol Veil, Chair of the HAPS Grants and Scholarships Committee.

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Concept Mapping in A&P – One Instructor’s Experience

I assigned concept maps as homework in my A&P courses and it has proven to be extremely effective. Students are provided instructions for how to access a free concept mapping website and a list of concepts to be included in their map. I typically assign one map per major topic or body system (8-10 per semester). Concepts to be included are heavily based on the HAPS Learning Outcomes. Since students can make concept maps in many different ways, they are primarily graded for level of detail and completeness. After the first assignment is submitted, I choose several maps and display them anonymously to the class. I ask students to identify how that particular map is helpful and to find ways the map might be improved, stressing their use as study tools. As students gain experience, the quality of their maps improves significantly. By the end of the semester, many are astonishingly complex and detailed.

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(Click on image above or here for a full-size PDF)

Student scores on a standardized departmental final have improved in the classes that I’ve utilized concept mapping and many students reported that concept maps were extremely helpful in A&P.  Many nursing programs now heavily integrate concept mapping into nursing education so this assignment was particularly helpful to pre-nursing students. I also discovered that the rate of homework completion was higher for concept maps than more “traditional” homework. Students stated that creating the map forced them to really read the text and think about how the concepts related to each other, but that they were also fun!

Since several of these students had previously utilized concept mapping in my courses, they volunteered to create a comprehensive concept map that included all of the 900+ HAPS Learning Outcomes. Their goal was to use this project to reinforce their own understanding of A&P and to create a teaching tool that could be displayed for future student use.

They worked on this project on their own time between early January and mid-May, 2018, including spring break, while also juggling classes, jobs, and other responsibilities. The final product, a 16-foot-long concept map with over 5000 elements, was printed and displayed during the conference.

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Paul Luyster, Associate Professor of Biology, and nine TCC students, Brian Cisneros, Daniel Duran, Stephanie Galaviz-Webster, Jocelyn Gonzalez, Karely Leon, Mitchell McDowell, Auston McIntosh, Lisabel Ruiz-Steblein, and Jami Williams, presented a workshop titled “Using Case Studies and Concept Mapping Assignments to Enhance Student Engagement and Learning in A&P” at the Human Anatomy and Physiology Society (HAPS) Conference in Columbus, Ohio, May, 2018.

These students are proud of their concept map but even more importantly, they know with certainty that they have constructed – in a diagram and in their mind – a detailed set of concepts and relationships that integrates all of the important aspects of A&P.. They know their stuff, and they KNOW that they know it. Isn’t that what teaching is all about?


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Paul Luyster is an Associate Professor of Biology at Tarrant County College, Fort Worth, Texas, where he enjoys teaching Anatomy and Physiology, Majors Biology, Undergraduate Biology Research, and an Environmental Biology Wilderness Course.

 

Action Potential Tip from the Hundred Acre Wood

Last month we explained some of the outlets available with HAPS for publication. This week we are bringing you a glimpse of a Teaching Tip. The analogy provided below is a portion of a Teaching Tip recently submitted by HAPS member Micah Meltzer and his student Megan Spears. To see the full tip, visit the HAPS website

The Curriculum and Instruction Committee welcomes tip submission in all content areas; however, they are currently especially interested in tips for the following areas, which could use more tips to support our HAPS outcome guidelines.

  • Muscular system: skeletal muscle metabolism, characteristics of muscle tissue types, principles and types of whole muscle contraction (twitch, motor unit or contraction types)
  • Nervous system: neurotransmitters and their role at the synapse, sensory and motor pathways in CNS, ANS functions, body system survey
  • General A&P introduction: body cavities/regions, directional terms in A&P

Undergraduate physiology students seem to relate well to A.A. Milne’s characters Tigger & Eeyore from the Winnie-the-Pooh stories. The different behaviors of the voltage-gated Na+ & K+ channels can be likened to the personalities of Tigger & Eeyore, respectively. Tigger has a bouncy, excitable personality which is similar to the behavior of the voltage-gated Na+ channels (VGNC) responsible for rapid depolarization. In contrast, Eeyore is a mopey, sluggish character who behaves more like the voltage-gated K+ channels (VGKC) responsible for repolarization & hyperpolarization. These character associations can help students remember the differences between the two different voltage-gated ion channels involved in the generation of the neuronal action potential, which is a fundamental concept of neurophysiology.

Tigger Channels

Tigger is known for being friendly, energetic, and more than a little rambunctious. Tigger can be seen in the Hundred Acre Wood bouncing around and engaging excitedly with the world. Tigger’s exuberant and enthusiastic qualities are analogous to the rapid-open/rapid-close properties of the VGNC (Voltage-Gated Na+ Channel).

Neuronal VGNCs each contain a voltage-dependent activation gate & a time-dependent inactivation gate. The activation gate is triggered to open once a certain membrane potential, the threshold voltage, is present across the local membrane. The activation gates open rapidly allowing a significant influx of Na+ ions, causing depolarization and the rapid upstroke of an action potential, much like Tigger is known to suddenly burst into short-lived activity.  After a brief period of time (1-2 ms following activation), the inactivation gate rapidly “plugs” up the ion pore from the inside of the cell. This event abruptly stops Na+ ion influx, ending depolarization and defining the peak of the upstroke. The inactivation gate can easily be remembered by likening it to Tigger’s tail getting in the way.

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Eeyore Channels

And then there is the gloomy Eeyore. Oh bother. In this mnemonic, his tail can be thought of as the sole activation gate swinging open and closed in response to changes in voltage. Eeyore is often seen moping around or moseying behind his friends around the Hundred Acre Wood. Eeyore’s slow and deliberate manner is analogous to the slow-to-open/slow-to-close nature of the VGKC (Voltage-Gated K+ Channel).

The VGKCs contain a voltage-dependent activation gate but, unlike VGNCs, do not contain an inactivation gate. The kinetics of the VGKC activation gate are slower, responding less quickly to changes in membrane potential when compared to the VGNC’s activation gate. The repolarization phase begins at the same time as the peak of the depolarization upstroke.  It takes that long to get most of the VGKCs opened allowing for significant K+ efflux. Once the membrane potential returns toward threshold voltage, the VGKCs begin to close, also slowly. If K+ continues to exit the cell after threshold voltage has been reached there will be a hyperpolarization phase.

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Micah Meltzer M.D. is an Assistant Professor of Biology at Contra Costa Community College (CA). He teaches Human Anatomy & Physiology, through a clinical lens, to students who are interested in (mainly) pursuing careers in the healthcare field.

 

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Megan Spears is an Anatomy Teaching Assistant and student at Contra Costa College. She is on track to apply to medical school next Spring.

Support HAPS … via Amazon Zygomaticus!

Some HAPSters have undoubtedly heard of Amazon Smile, a charitable-giving program in which eligible purchases initiated from smile.amazon.com (rather than plain old amazon.com) lead to a donation to a nonprofit organization of the buyer’s choice. Some of you even participate already, perhaps in support of your local house of worship, parent-teacher association, or athletic club. But to those who have not yet aligned with a nonprofit in this way — and those who’ve grown tired of boosting the same old 501(c)(3)’s year after year — I say, consider making HAPS your charity of choice! Doing so is easy, as illustrated in the screenshots below…

1. Point your web browser to smile.amazon.com.

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2. Log in (or create a new amazon.com account).

3. Find the Human Anatomy & Physiology Society among the many eligible charitable organizations.  Searching for “Human Anatomy and Physiology” will work, but searching for “HAPS” will lead you astray.  Click Select.

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4. That’s it!  From that point on, 0.5% of your eligible purchases will be donated to HAPS.

 

Publishing with HAPS

You know that old, grim academic saying, “Publish or perish”?  We at HAPS prefer to say “Publish and flourish!” While your home institution may have specific expectations regarding scholarship, we offer several options for “publishing” (in the broad sense of the word) that will make communicating with your fellow A&P professionals fulfilling and fun!  Some of these resources are only available for HAPS members (HAPS Discussion Group and Teaching Tips) while others are publicly available for the benefit of the entire A&P community (HAPS Blog and HAPS Educator). Details of each publication venue are provided below.

HAPS Discussion Group (HAPS-L Listserv): Maybe you don’t really want to write up anything formal — you just want to share a link to a cool news item and comment on it. Or maybe you have a question for your fellow educators.  Great for getting rapid feedback, often from experts like A&P textbook authors.  Why do some texts refer to a “dorsal body cavity” while others do not? How does pelvis shape vary according to geography?  The listserv has you covered.

Teaching Tips: As the name implies, teaching tips are concise pieces of practical teaching advice. Teaching tips can be submitted here; submitters choose appropriate learning outcome tags to assist others in locating their tip for usage in class or lab.  Each submission is reviewed by Curriculum and Instruction Committee members to assure that it is posted in an optimal location.

Blog: Want feedback during the early stages of a research project?  Want to provoke discussion that is more extensive or more timeless than the typical listserv chit-chat? The blog is the place for you. Blog posts are published once a week during the academic year and contain a wide variety of ideas from short teaching tips (see above) to descriptions of unique A&P-related experiences. Each post is edited before publication, so no need to worry about minor errors or incomplete thoughts. Ideas and drafts can be emailed to hapsblog@hapsconnect.org. Please include a headshot or other picture and a short author bio.

HAPS Educator: The most formal of these four options, but run by friendly editors! HAPS Educator aims to foster teaching excellence and pedagogical research in anatomy and physiology education.  This open-access journal publishes peer-reviewed articles under three categories. Educational Research articles discuss pedagogical research projects supported by robust data.  Perspectives on Teaching articles discuss a teaching philosophy or modality but do not require supporting data. Current Topics articles provide a state-of-the-art summary of a trending topic area relevant to A&P educators.  All submitted articles undergo peer review. Educational Research articles will additionally be reviewed for the quality of the supporting data. HAPS Educator is the official publication of the Human Anatomy and Physiology Society (HAPS) and is published online three times per year: on March 1, July 1, and November 1.

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Invariant Visual Representation by Single Neurons in the Human Brain

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There are cells in your nose that respond to a rose,

Which, in some ways, is clearly terrific.

There are cells in your skin that sense pricks of a pin,

Which is useful, and fairly specific….

 

But imagine a cell specializing so well,

It detects only one of earth’s denizens!

Yes, imagine a neuron that only will turn on

For pictures of Jennifer Aniston!

 

Too bizarre?  Well, get this: such neurons exist,

Based on research of this new millennium.*

So what else might inspire picky neurons to fire

Deep inside the hard case of the cranium?

 

*R.Q. Quiroga et al. (2005), Nature 435: 1102-1107

Photo Source


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Dr. Greg Crowther teaches anatomy and physiology at Everett Community College (WA).  His peer-reviewed articles on enhancing learning with content-rich music have collectively been cited over 100 times.