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.

 

2017-2018 Call for Nominations: An Opportunity to Serve

This post comes to you from Judi Nath, HAPS President Elect.

Reading the HAPS listserv and HAPS Educator, serving on the board or  a committee, reviewing position statements, implementing HAPS learning outcomes and returning from an annual or regional conference with new ideas are all ways that I have benefitted from the volunteer efforts of our many engaged HAPS members. Hearing from others who express their gratitude for the services offered by our organization provides evidence that we are helping meet the professional needs of the A&P instructors we represent. Yet, there are always improvements to be made, fresh ideas to be considered, and management tasks that must be completed. A vibrant and dedicated leadership team helps guide the HAPS organization in these various areas. Please consider joining this team, or nominating others, for the Board positions that will be open for elections in Spring 2018.

As HAPS President-Elect, it is my privilege to chair the annual Nominating Committee and solicit potential candidates for leadership positions. Working with me this year on the Nominating Committee are Javni Mody, Kevin Petti , and Dic Charge. You will likely recognize these people because each individual has served HAPS in various roles too numerous to mention throughout many years of devoted membership.

We are currently accepting nominations for candidates to fill four HAPS offices with terms that will commence on July 1, 2018.  These offices are the following: President-Elect, Treasurer, Eastern Regional Director, and Western Regional Director.  Both self-nominations and nominations from colleagues are welcome and are due to the Nominating Committee by January 31, 2018.  Questions can be submitted to me.

All discussions of potential candidates will remain confidential within the Nominating Committee.  The Nominating Committee will review all nominations and verify willingness to serve.  A final slate of candidates will be recommended to the Board of Directors for approval in March, with a maximum of two candidates for President-Elect and maximum of three candidates for each of the other offices.  The final candidates will be asked to provide a biography, position statement, and photo for the April ballot.

All elected officers serve on the Board of Directors during their designated term.  The Board holds in-person meetings twice a year:  one occurs during a weekend in October (next year’s meeting will be held in Denver), and the other occurs for two days prior to the annual conference in the host city).  The work of the Board is conducted the rest of the year through scheduled monthly e-meetings, synchronous video calls, and other asynchronous communication as needed.

Descriptions of the roles and responsibilities of each office can be found in the HAPS Bylaws available on the HAPS website (login required).  Below is a short synopsis of each office that will be filled in the 2018 election:

President-Elect

Election to this office involves a three-year commitment, one year each as President-Elect, President, and Past-President.  The year as President-Elect provides a year to become accustomed to serving on the Board of Directors before transitioning into the role of President.  The President, in consultation with the Board, provides direction and guidance by establishing and managing the policies and affairs of the Society.  Following the President’s term, they become Past-President to provide leadership continuity.

Treasurer

The Treasurer is the chief fiscal officer of the Society, one of the official signing officers, and serves on the Executive Committee.  The Treasurer oversees all financial transactions, keeps financial records and prepares the annual budget in consultation with the Board of Directors and Steering Committee.  The Treasurer’s term of office is for two (2) years, but there is no limit to consecutive terms.

Regional Directors (Eastern & Western Regions – see website for boundaries.)

Although each Regional Director serves as a representative of one of the four HAPS regions to ensure diverse geographical representation on the Board of Directors, they are elected by the entire membership.  Each acts as a liaison between the region’s constituency and the Board and promotes increased involvement of the region’s membership in the activities of the Society, including regional conferences.  Each Regional Director’s term of office is for two (2) years.  Regional Directors may not serve more than two (2) consecutive terms.

Becoming part of the HAPS leadership team is a great way to give back to our organization and to enhance personal and professional development within a nationally respected educational society.  Whether you, or someone you know, would be interested in this opportunity, please let us know.

For those who are not comfortable participating at the Board level at this time, but who are still interested in becoming involved, please consider participating on a HAPS committee.  We value the time and talent of all those who strive to improve HAPS.

Nominate Someone for the HAPS/Thieme Excellence in Teaching Award!

Do you know a great teacher,  someone you feel inspires student success in anatomy and physiology?  If you do (and we all do), please consider nominating him or her for the HAPS/ Thieme Excellence in Teaching Award for 2018.  HAPS is honored to team with Thieme Publishers to offer this opportunity to recognize one of our own for efforts in the classroom or laboratory.

Nominated instructors:

  • Must be teaching anatomy and physiology during this academic year, with an expectation that they will continue,
  • Must be HAPS members, and
  • Must be exemplary teachers

To qualify to nominate an instructor, you must be an instructor or administrator at an accredited institution in the United States or Canada, have at least two years of experience, and be able to explain why the nominee deserves the award.

HAPS-Thieme1
HAPS expresses its thanks to Thieme Publishing for support in the establishment and continuation of this award.

The award includes a $1500 cash honorarium and waiver of fees for the HAPS Annual Conference.  The recipient will present the “HAPS/Thieme Award for Excellence in Teaching Workshop” during the Annual Conference Workshop Sessions in 2018.  We had terrific workshops at the 2015, 2016 and 2017 conferences.  This year’s recipient will join an illustrious group that includes Terry Thompson, Mary Tracy Bee and Mark Nielsen.

Nomination forms and details on award criteria can be found on the HAPS webpage. Deadline for nominations is December 1st, 2017.

Don Kelly
Co-Chair
HAPS Grants and Scholarships Committee

The President’s Medal

The President’s medal is an award that recognizes a HAPS member who has provided exemplary service to HAPS. The recipient of the award is chosen by the current HAPS President and  is announced at the Annual General Membership Meeting.  Terry Thompson explains below why she chose Carol Veil as the 2017 President’s Medal recipient.

Carol Veil (l) receives the President’s Medal from President Terry Thompson (r)

I had the pleasure of presenting this year’s medal to Carol Veil in Salt Lake City.  Because the choice is kept secret, I first shared a “hint” with the audience in the form of a special chocolate Oscar-like statue.  I think most everyone in the room got the hint, except Carol.  In true humility, as she was dutifully taking minutes from the Annual Membership meeting, Carol looked up and thought, “Gee, there must be someone else here that likes chocolate as much as I do”.

Carol served on the Steering Committee as chair of the Curriculum & Instruction Committee from 2005 to 2009.  During that time she coordinated 35 faculty from 18 different states to develop the HAPS Anatomy & Physiology Learning Outcomes, which continues to be one of our organization’s most valuable members resources.  The Learning Outcomes are used by faculty to develop and assess their courses, by publishers to organize textbooks, and by the HAPS Testing Committee to write questions for the HAPS Exam. The coordination and organization of this major project is even more amazing when we think back to the limited technology that was available at that time for collaboration only by email attachments and multiple versions of documents.

In her 19 years as a HAPS member, Carol has given individual and team workshops at 20 annual conferences and at 5 regional conferences, often presenting some of both at the same conference.  Many of us have gleaned new teaching tips and strategies from the various workshops presented in partnership with Javni Mody, such as the popular Awesome Analogies or Mnifty Mnemonics, as well as learned so much about the physiology of chocoholics from a connoisseur.  She also served on conference planning committees for the 2009 Baltimore Annual conference and two regional conferences. Carol also involved her students in the pilot study for the A&P 1 only version of the HAPS Exam.

Most recently, Carol was elected to the Board of Directors as Secretary for two terms since 2013, serving with four HAPS presidents.  As a result, she played a role in the initial development and the mid-term review of the HAPS 2014 – 2019 Strategic Plan that provides the great vision and process to lead HAPS successfully into the future.  Carol was chosen for this award based on her work in these many roles as she ends her term as HAPS secretary and retires from Anne Arundel Community College (AACC) near Annapolis, MD.  She has already committed to continuing her involvement with HAPS with initial plans for a team workshop in Columbus OH and agreeing to serve as Chair-in-Training under Don Kelly as the next co-chair of the Foundation Oversight committee for Grants and Scholarships.

It was my honor to present Carol with this well-deserved recognition and we all look forward to her continued HAPS contributions as a retired emerita member.

Please Vote in the Elections for Board Positions!

President-Elect Ron Gerrits

Serving as an officer in any organization requires a commitment of time and effort. Because HAPS members generally lead busy lives, it can be a challenge finding candidates who are confident they can devote enough time to managing the current affairs of HAPS while also strategically planning for its future. In spite of these challenges, there was a strong response to the nomination process this year and the Nominating Committee is excited to finalize a slate of candidates that nearly fills the allotted slots allowed for balloting. In fact, we had more nominations this year than ever for multiple positions, such that we were not able to put all of those interested on the ballot. This increase in interest in leadership positions speaks well of the engagement level of the society and we are hopeful that it will continue into the future.

Besides identifying qualified candidates, an organization also benefits when there is a high level of participation by the general membership in the election process. I am requesting that all of us review the descriptions of the open positions, read the candidate statements and complete the ballots when received.

The positions that are up for election starting in July 2017 include the following:

President-Elect:
Election to this office involves a three-year commitment, one year each as President-Elect, President, and Past-President.  The year as President-Elect provides a year to become accustomed to serving on the Board of Directors before transitioning into the role of President.  The President, in consultation with the Board, provides direction and guidance by establishing and managing the policies and affairs of the Society.  Following the President’s term, they become Past-President to provide leadership continuity.  

Secretary:
The Secretary is responsible for maintaining the official records of the Society. This includes recording minutes of Board and general membership meetings, and maintaining bylaws and other corporate documents. The Secretary’s term of office is for two (2) years.

Regional Directors (Central & Southern Regions)
Although each Regional Director serves as a representative of one of the four HAPS regions to ensure diverse geographical representation on the Board of Directors, they are elected by the entire membership.  They act as a liaison between the region’s constituency and the Board and promote increased involvement of the region’s membership in the activities of the Society, including regional conferences.  Each Regional Director’s term of office is for two (2) years. The current incumbents each qualify to serve again.

The candidate information and biographies can be found here, which summarize the activities of these members both within and outside of HAPS.


HAPS members will receive ballots on March 13



HAPS members will receive ballots today, so please watch out for them in your email.  The voting will continue through March 31. Because we have three candidates for each Regional Director, as well as for Secretary, we are utilizing instant runoff voting this year (a form of preferential voting in Robert’s Rules of Order). Instant runoff voting is a form of rank order voting that is commonly used in universities and municipalities when there are more than two candidates for a position. It provides a mechanism for obtaining a majority vote without having to hold additional rounds of balloting, which might otherwise be required. You will be asked to rank candidates in order of preference (1-3). We understand that this can be challenging, especially if you consider all candidates strong, but it is necessary in order to hold the elections in an efficient manner.

Election results will be announced in April, as well as at the annual conference in Salt Lake City.

Thanks to everyone in advance for taking the time to participate in the election process. And a special thanks to those that have agreed to serve in office if elected. It is a commitment that benefits all in the society.


Ron Gerrits is the HAPS President-Elect & 2016-2017 Nominating Committee Chair.  He is a Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the Milwaukee School of Engineering.  Vote now