Tens of thousands of students take Anatomy and Physiology courses every year, usually as preparation for a career in health. A&P instructors touch the lives of all of these students, and HAPS gives those instructors guidance on dealing with some of the ethical and procedural issues that can arise in the process of this instruction. Having these guidelines and position statements allows HAPS members to rely on these statements as starting points for conversations when these issues come up.
One of the more contentious issues that arises is the use of animal specimens. Historically, an important tool of investigation in human anatomy has been dissection of animals. Often this is because human material is hard to come by and has its own logistical issues (see below). Dissection, both of humans and animals, instills a recognition and appreciation for the three-dimensional structure of the animal body, the interconnections between organs and organ systems, and the uniqueness of biological material while conveying the inherent variability of living organisms not otherwise observable in simulations and models. In physiology, experiments involving live animals provide an excellent opportunity to learn the basic elements specific to scientific investigation and experimentation. At the same time, HAPS also encourages educators to be responsive to student concerns regarding use of animals and to provide students who object to animal use with alternative learning materials. HAPS contends that science educators should retain responsibility for making decisions regarding the educational uses of animals and opposes any legislation or administrative policy that would erode the educator’s role in decision making or restrict dissection and animal experimentation in biology.
While animal dissection may approach the ideal, human cadavers provide opportunities that cannot be duplicated by animal dissection. HAPS believes that the opportunity to observe and wonder at the complexity of the human body, the impact of disease on human structure, the effects of age and life style on anatomy, and structural variations related to development are unique attributes of a cadaver experience. While anatomical models, interactive computer programs, and multimedia materials may enhance the laboratory experience, they should not be considered as equivalent alternatives or substitutes for a hands-on cadaver experience where it is available. HAPS supports the use of cadavers for anatomical study provided their use is in strict compliance with federal legislation, the guidelines of the National Institutes of Health, and the body donor program from which the cadavers were acquired, and that such use fulfills clearly defined educational objectives.
HAPS also provides position statements on the quality of education that institutions should be providing to our A&P students. A growing trend in education is the use of ‘distributed learning’ – partially or wholly online courses and the use of web-based resources. These educational distribution methods provide a number of advantages: providing access to education that might not otherwise be available to particular students, flexibility in scheduling and learning styles for students, and the wealth of resources available on the internet. Nevertheless, these instructional technologies must support and complement the needs of best principles of teaching and learning, including training of instructors, pedagogical best-practices and assessment security and integrity. Online courses should provide an equivalent experience and similar material to face-to-face courses, and not be watered-down versions of an on-campus course.
On the topic of instructor accreditation, HAPS understands that A&P instructors come from a wide variety of post-baccalaureate programs including traditional life sciences programs (e.g. biology or physiology) as well as programs like biological anthropology and kinesiology. In addition, many A&P instructors come from clinical backgrounds such as nursing or physical therapy. HAPS has a number of guidelines for suggested coursework that A&P instructors should have taken, and how clinical or practical experience can be considered substitutions for this coursework. These guidelines embrace the diversity in backgrounds while still requiring rigorous standards of instruction and evaluation of that instruction.
These guidelines and position statements, with far more detail and formality, can be found on the HAPS website. These statements are tools that HAPS provides for dealing with the questions that A&P instructors may encounter when dealing with students, administrations, and the public.