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!

Ultrasound in Human Anatomy and Physiology Education

This past weekend was the first Conference on Ultrasound in Human Anatomy and Physiology Education. As President elect of HAPS, I was invited to participate in a panel session during the conference. Not sure of what exactly to expect, I traveled to Columbia, SC for this inaugural conference.  I was excited to learn of the possibilities of incorporating ultrasound, but my initial ‘gut’ reaction was that I wouldn’t be able to do too much, since I was not a physician trained in the field.  Boy was I wrong!

John Waters and I (in matching colors) practice visualizing the common carotid artery and internal jugular vein on a very patient USC medical student.

The first day of the two day conference began with some very informative talks about how various medical schools incorporated ultrasound into their medical school curricula.  Among the key points:  a) implement in increments (don’t try to set up an entirely new program all at once), b) make sure you assess the students in ultrasound (and don’t just have it as a ‘neato cool toy’ that you never incorporate in exams or other assessments) and c) it isn’t as difficult to use ultrasound as you would think!  My response to C initially was “Yeah, right”.  I already teach an upper level course entitled Human Anatomy for Medical Imaging, and we do examine ultrasound images in that course.  However, I always relied on a skilled ultrasound tech to do ultrasound demonstrations for me, as I had no idea how to even turn on the machine.

Well, boy was I wrong about the difficulty in doing ultrasound demonstrations myself!  Don’t get me wrong – being a skilled practitioner of ultrasound takes a LOT of work and training.  But I was not aspiring to the level of skilled practitioner.  Rather, I became the ‘enthusiastic novice with gross anatomy knowledge’ who was able to pinpoint where major organs were and pick out basic differences between various tissues.  With the help of many 1st year medical students from University of South Carolina, I and the other conference participants were able to visualize the common carotid artery and internal jugular vein, determine the difference between the thyroid gland and thyroid cartilage, examine cartilaginous and tendinous structures of the knee joint, visualize the kidneys, spleen, liver, and of course, the heart.  Sure, there were times that we were nowhere close to accurately visualizing a particular structure – but with some guidance, we soon learned the basics of the ultrasound machine and some of the tips and tricks to getting a good image.   I jumped in and started using the machine on myself – I learned my gallbladder still appears to be ok, my common carotid doesn’t have any major evidence of atherosclerosis, and my creaky right knee still has some cartilage left. 🙂

Sonogram simulators – the best of ultrasound and a simulated patient, wrapped up in one!

John Waters (fellow HAPS member) and I quickly thought of possibilities of using ultrasound in the undergraduate A&P classes.  It would be very easy to demonstrate key features on the undergraduates and get them excited about visualizing structures in themselves.  Whereas prior to the conference, I would not have considered using ultrasound in my intro level human anatomy class, now I was brimming with excitement about the possibilities.

“But what about the cost?” you may ask.  That can be a sticking point.  Diagnostic-level ultrasound machines can cost 5 or even six digits – well out of range of most undergraduate institutions!  But educators in intro classes do not need the ‘best and the brightest’ of ultrasound machines – they need a basic machine that can provide a decent image and is relatively easy to use. Several ultrasound manufacturers are exploring educational partnerships, and are in the process of developing lower-end machines that wouldn’t cost very much for the educator.  There may be the possibilities of grant monies to fund these ventures. As local hospitals upgrade their ultrasound equipment, there may be the possibility of your institution being able to purchase the hospital’s older machines.  Think outside the box when it comes to funding this venture.

For those of you attending the HAPS conference in Las Vegas this May, you’ll have a chance to see a workshop about incorporating ultrasound in the undergraduate classroom.  I hope you will find this concept as interesting as I did!

Reason # 547 Why I Love to Teach

HAPS members are individuals who are committed to teaching and want to inspire a love of the subject matter in their students.  Teaching is not easy, and there are times when aspects of the job can drag us down.  And then there are the times that reinforce our commitment to the discipline, and remind us why we decided to become A&P teachers in the first place.   Last Thursday was one of those times for me.   It was my last day of teaching medical Gross Anatomy for the semester.  Right as class was to begin, one student stood up and started reciting the following Ode.  Another student stood up and took turns with the recitation.  Turns out that each student wrote a portion of the ode in the form of a haiku, and it related in some aspect to anatomy, or specific class, or our humorous discussions during lab dissections.  The writing is both humorous and touching, and it is a memory I will never forget.  Thank you, Class of 2016!  Below is the  (G-rated/edited) version of the ode:

Odes to Our Gal Val

A Truly Motivating

And inspiring prof


Odes inspired by

Our leader on this Journey

Of Anatomy


How worthless you are to me

F&#% F#*% F#%*#$ F#%*#$ F#$*% 


Our overflowing

lacrimal fluid, floods our

nasal cavity


Pick my pimply face

Kenny Loggins’ Danger Zone



 Winwood so bellows

with a guttural roar from

deep in the pharynx




Henry Gray’s wisdom

You taught me, what to avoid

Pick a zit and die




Insidious Loops

And, convoluted pathways

Just to work some glands


 Like Cincinnatus,

Your willing accomplices

We absently learn


While painting pictures

Mind’s eye wanders to Flesh, Bone

One grows, accustomed.


 Here’s a scary thought

Without it I’m one ball short (LANCE)



 To be so rigid

surely a covering you are

a very tough mother


 Moist muscular walls

Between, like kids in the hall

food slides down the gut

 (get your head outta the gutter)

 File:Circle of Willis en.svg

I hear “katydids”

When you explain flow to brain

Tell Willis he’s bugged


 Sir Fickle’s Fast, yeah?

So many layers to know

Another way to die


 In and out I slide

Sometimes deviating left

With nerve XII damage


 Fingers in my nose

Epistaxis ain’t so bad

I can’t stop, won’t stop


Arytenoid muscles

Contract, I whisper to thee

My perineum


The periphery

Only canthi, can’t thee see

See me, mon ami



You’re only twenty-seven

Between you eight eyes


 Val loves Family Guy

Oculomotor breaks, Now

she watches the floor


Cranial nerve one

Soiled socks smell like lilacs



Without you I think

Its better to not existFile:Crying-girl.jpg

Lacrimal secrete


 We try to find nerves

A tireless search, finding only



Valerie is nice

Thanks for answering questions

outside of class time


 Alien in me

Moves with my every word

No talking for me


 Pupil dilation

Melatonin on the rise

Go the f*#$ to sleep