Online Resources and Research Update

In a post a few weeks ago, I mentioned the exciting opportunity I was given to work with a medical school in Houston that was testing the efficacy of a cardiovascular unit that they had designed. A few of you asked for more information and now I have a chance to share!

The research program is through the Center for Educational Outreach at Baylor University College of Medicine. The cardiovascular unit, if effective, will be released on their website where they already have a plethora of awesome interactive, online lessons and resources. I have used their online resources many times in the past (especially when I was student teaching in biology), and found the lessons and activities to be very engaging, comprehensive, and very visually appealing. They have everything from simulations to articles, videos, slides, and tutorials. I am so excited to learn about the results of the study and hopefully the unit will be available for everyone soon! Seeing it on paper in a big research binder and seeing it as an interactive, online unit will be so different, and it’s neat that I can say I played I role in that!BioEd-3

It is resources like this (the and others like the APS Archives (another incredible website) that make my life so much easier! It’s so helpful and exciting to have resources to refer to that I know are high quality, reliable, and accessible for both me and my students, and finding those kinds of resources has proven to be one of my toughest challenges this year. It’s difficult for me to trust online resources, but I can rest a little easier knowing they are backed by scholars, researchers, and academics. If you know of any others I should check out, please let me know, and if you have any other questions about the study with Baylor, ask away! I am not sure how much information I can disclose right now since it is an ongoing study, but I’d be more than happy to find out or share once the study ends!

Put a Pin it That!

Acupuncture is one of the oldest medical practices in the world, having been used in China and other areas of Asia for thousands of years. Acupuncture involves the stimulation of anatomical points on the body that are connected along pathways known as meridians, using a variety of techniques. Most often, this will involve penetrating the skin with thin, metallic needles, with or without electrical stimulation.

Acupuncture is recognized by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as being “widely” practiced by thousands of physicians, dentists, acupuncturists and other practitioners to successfully treat a wide variety of conditions, including pain, digestive function, infertility, headaches, and more. Acupuncture is currently even covered by some insurance companies and the reimbursement programs are growing, especially for the treatment of chronic pain. According to the 2007 National Health Interview Survey, which included a comprehensive survey of CAM use by Americans, an estimated 3.1 million U.S. adults and 150,000 children had used acupuncture in the previous year.

I was only 19 years old when I was first exposed to acupuncture. After 6 months of being bounced from one doctor to another for intense pain throughout my entire body, coupled with fevers and fatigue, I was given a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (which in my opinion are diagnoses of exclusion when the answers are yet to be found). My physician at the time, a pain specialist, gave me 2 options: a spinal pain block that would be placed in my lumber vertebrae so that I could administer pain medication to myself as needed, or try acupuncture. 

Having grown up in a very isolated corner of Northeastern PA, where not even massage therapy was common and there were certainly no yoga classes, I was skeptical of Complementary Medicine, and wondered how laying on a table with pins in my body could help me. Was I ever wrong. 

I was privileged to meet David and Ming-Ming Molony, the owners of Lehigh Valley Acupuncture in Catasaqua, PA. My total physical, emotional and spiritual well-being were assessed in a way I never experienced before, and a treatment plan was tailored to address the integration of all of these components. The discomfort was quite minimal while the acupuncture needles were being inserted, and any discomfort was well worth the feeling both during the treatment and afterwards. Within a few months, nearly all of my pain was relieved. It came back, however, after I discontinued treatments. Months later, after extensive testing and clinical assessments, I was diagnosed with Chronic Lyme Disease. It took doctors 2 years to figure it out due to controversy surround the Western Blot.

Although acupuncture could not cure a rampant bacterial infection, I marvel at the fact that not a single prescription I was given to manage my pain came close to the effect acupuncture had.  More importantly, I never viewed medicine in the same way again. Today I take advantage of the best of both traditional and complementary medicine and encourage others to do so as well. 

Here are some great resources detailing the theory and physiology of acupuncture in better detail:

Best of health to you!


Anatomy and physiology education at Experimental Biology 2013

I am writing this latest blog while on a plane, returning home to Indiana. Like many other HAPS members, I also am a member in several of our sister societies. This past week, many HAPS members put on their American Association of Anatomists (AAA) or American Physiological Society (APS) ‘hats’ as we participated in Experimental Biology (EB) 2013. Experimental Biology is composed of multiple associations, and their yearly meeting typically is in April each year. Over 12,000 scientists and educators converge on a city and share the latest bench and educational research.

This year, the meeting was in Boston, scheduled to open the Saturday morning after the horrific bombing at the Boston marathon. Many were scheduled to arrive on Friday, the day the city was locked down as the suspects were involved in a shoot out with police. Thankfully, people were able to safely arrive (although most were sequestered in their hotel for the day) and the police were able to capture the suspect.

One of the neat things about EB is that you may attend any of the sessions offered by your or other affiliated societies. Thus, a AAA member may attend an APS session, an APS member may attend a Society of Nutrition symposium, and so on. There simply are too many interesting concurrent sessions to attend!

My focus was on the anatomy education sessions, where I listened to talks about incorporating anatomy in an integrated medical curriculum, the use of team based learning in anatomy, the flipped classroom, and more. I tweeted about the specifics of these sessions throughout the conference. (If you are interested in following me, my twitter handle is @vdoloughlin). In addition, my graduate students and I each presented posters on our anatomical education research. I was able to connect with colleagues, share ideas, and see a truly wonderful city that did not let an act of terror get the best of them.

While EB2013 was energizing and exciting, I am looking forward to going home, seeing my family, and finishing up the semester. And in less than one month’s time, I can’t wait to reconnect with my HAPS family in Las Vegas for our annual meeting! Will you be at this year’s HAPS Annual meeting? Please comment below and let me know!

Student-Centered, Student-Driven Instruction

As our year is winding down, we are finally coming to the end of our curriculum, and the students are noticing how little there is left on our calendar! I’m trying to get my students involved in lots of activities to keep their energy and motivation up through the end of the year. Each student will be working on an activity/poster/project that they will share with the class to showcase all they have learned this year.

One of the students in my Anatomy and Physiology class has expressed a passion for going to medical school and becoming an Endocrinologist. While we have covered the Endocrine system throughout the year in our discussion of other systems, I was not planning to do an entire endocrine unit. This shining student, however, has volunteered to teach the class about the endocrine system and I couldn’t be more thrilled! It’s so refreshing to have students who are motivated, interested, and willing to go above and beyond!

What great student-led discussions or activities have you had in your classrooms? What direction should I guide her in with her approach to the endocrine system? As this is not something I originally planned, I have very few lessons or resources to provide her with, but I know she will do a great job researching and learning all that she can. If you have any suggestions about main ideas, interesting facts, or cool resources for the endocrine system, she and I would love to know about them!

Also, as it turns out, the reason she has such a strong desire to become an Endocrinologist is because she, herself, was recently diagnosed with Turner’s Syndrome and has come to greatly admire the doctors who have helped her and ignited her passion for science and medicine. So, on that note, thank you to all you wonderful doctors who inspire our kids and students and encourage them to take an interest in science and their health!

The Human Spirit

I’m taking a week hiatus from discussing the next type of alternative therapy on my list. In light of this week’s events in Boston, I would be remiss to continue writing as if an average week in American life occurred. 

As Anatomy and Physiology enthusiasts, we spend all of our time discussing, studying, teaching, researching and appreciating the wondrous creation that is the human body. Its ability to adapt to disease, to recover from major illnesses and injuries, and meet all of the demands we place on it throughout life is nothing short of a miracle.

What we don’t take enough time to marvel at is the power and resilience of the human spirit. Maybe it is because we only hear about that bad things that happen in the news. If aliens came to Earth and stood in line at a supermarket, they would leave with 2 assumptions: 1) Earthlings take enjoyment in the pain and shame of others, and 2) there’s little good to be found. Sadly, it takes the most horrific of events and tragedies, whether committed by fellow humans or unavoidable disasters, for us to look up from our tabloids and reality shows and realize what binds all of us. As humans, we are bound, not by our mutual interest in the pain or humiliation of others, but in our ability to come together in our darkest hours to perform heroic acts of service. I feel I can confidently say that there isn’t a single person in this nation who hasn’t felt deeply saddened by this tragedy and wished there were any possible way that they could help the victims or the search for the responsible parties. 

My hat goes off, and my heart goes out, to all of the emergency response workers, doctors, firefighters, policeman and civilians who worked tirelessly to minimize fatalities in Boston this week. I cannot imagine the things that they saw, and how easily fear could have overcome anyone on the scene. So many people, without regard to their own safety, rushed to help. We saw this on 9/11, and it’s a great comfort to know that even in the face of danger, the innate human desire to help and save others cannot be shaken.

The heart may beat throughout our lives, bones may withstand incredible forces, and the immune system may fight impossible infections. While fascinating, they pale in comparison to the power of the human spirit in the face of adversity. When we think back on April 15th in Boston, let us remember not the cruel and senseless act of the responsible parties, but the immeasurable compassion and bravery of everyone else involved. 

My money is on next year’s Boston Marathon being the biggest event running has ever seen.


Campus Safety

A little bit after noon on January 22, 2013 my phone began to nearly erupt out of my pocket as I taught class at Lone Star College-University Park. Even though I was teaching class the ridiculous amount of vibrations coming from my left hip forced me to take a look. The text message read “Shooter at Lone Star College – North Harris – seek shelter.” LSC-North Harris is my former campus, and I had signed up for emergencies alerts. The rest of the story made national new, so I’ll spare the details. Bottom line, NOT a mass shooting, just a fight that resulted in a gun being pulled. This guy even managed to shoot himself.

This of course sparked the age old gun debate, especially since Texas legislators currently have a bill proposing guns be allowed on campuses.

Until…..around 11am on Tuesday April 9th, when my phone erupted again. This time it was a stabbing at another sister campus, Lone Star College – CyFair. The suspect was stabbing people randomly, and claimed 14 victims. THIS was a PLANNED MASS ATTACK, and it did not involve a gun.

How does this relate to us, science teachers? It is possible that a student could obtain a scalpel or other sharp instrument from our laboratories. So, keep them locked, its good protocol.

As a member of the HAPS Board, this leaves me thinking, maybe we should update our safety statements at to include such topics.

Just remember to be aware of your surroundings and let fight or flight do it’s job if you are in danger.

Science Conference Success

As expected, the NSTA Conference was delightful! My fellow teachers and I gathered lots of resources, great ideas, and some exciting news! I also had the pleasure of running into a few fellow HAPS members and hopefully helped convince a couple other teachers to join in on all our fun! I love chatting with new people, sharing ideas, and brainstorming together, so I’m thrilled I had the opportunity to make some new connections. 

As for our exciting news… with the new bond that was passed for Houston ISD, there is a rumor we will now have a 1:1 student to computer ratio, with a possibility that my school, Chavez HS, will be one of the pilot schools next year! That being said, I feel the need to prepare myself now for this possibility. It sounds like a great idea on paper, but I question whether I am really ready for the challenge. What experience do you have with student laptops/tablets in the classroom? How do you think they can most effectively be utilized in a high school A&P class?