How the Grinch Taught Dissection

I hated pep-rallies in high school and I have always struggled with having a sense of team spirit. In fact, at Christmas time I find that I tend to have more in common with the Grinch than Old Saint Nick, so the fact that I find myself excited enough to write a blog about something is not only out of the ordinary, it’s stranger than green eggs and ham!

As one can imagine, I have surprised myself over the last four years at how I have become such an advocate (dare I say cheerleader) for the Human Anatomy & Physiology Society with both university administration and my fellow anatomy colleagues. It has been exciting to interact with the diverse population of individuals who teach A&P. Our educational backgrounds vary just as much as our personalities and teaching styles. In contrast to other professional organizations that I participate in, I have found that HAPS creates a uniquely inclusive environment in which professionals from a range of institutions and at all stages of their career can share their ideas and learn from conference speakers, workshops, and online forums. Furthermore, like the Grinch, I find my heart growing three sizes when I think of how our leadership team is constantly looking for new ways to work with the different HAPS committees in order to find how we can help one another become better scientists and educators.

With the intention to assist with this initiative, the HAPS Cadaver Use Committee has recognized a problem faced by a significant population of HAPS members. We have found that many of our members have very little or sometimes no cadaver dissection experience. In response to the perceived need and interest amongst the HAPS membership, the Cadaver Use Committee is developing a human cadaver dissection mentorship program. Specifically, we are soliciting member interest and need for this program. Additionally, we are looking to identify individuals that can serve as mentors. The role of the mentor will be better defined as we continue to collect information from HAPS members through virtual town-hall meetings and a survey to determine interest by location, limiting factors, cost, and the type of mentorship relationship that will provide the most value added for participants. Long-term, we would like this dissection mentorship program to fulfill the pillars of a faculty’s academic career. Our goal is to develop a mentorship program that will not only enrich the quality of teaching, but also bolster faculty promotion, tenure, and service.

With all that being said, I would like to say I am grateful for HAPS and proud of this initiative. I am excited to share my lab and my dissection experience with my colleagues. I may not be ready to hold hands and sing “Welcome Christmas” with all the Who’s in Whoville, but I can’t wait to hear from others in my region and the greater HAPS community and learn what they think about our new program and how they might like to participate. Please pay special attention to any upcoming emails regarding the human dissection mentorship program.  We would love to hear from you at any of our upcoming town hall meetings or surveys!

Kelsey Stevens Image

Kelsey Stevens is the Anatomy Lab Manager and an Instructor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions. Her specialties include Human Anatomy, Physiology, and Embryology.  She has been a member of the HAPS Cadaver Use Committee since 2016.


When Drama in the Lab is a GOOD Thing

This past semester, I had the fortunate experience to have an extra A&P lab session relative to previous semesters. I decided to take a page from my Microbiology courses and find a movie on an A&P topic to show for the last day of lab and (of course) have food. In Microbiology, I have shown the movie Contagion because it allows us to have a discussion on epidemiology and how outbreaks happen. I was looking for a similar movie in the realm of human A&P, so of course I turned to my HAPS friends for suggestions via the HAPS list-serv! Suggestions I received were: Gifted Hands, Extraordinary Measures, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Double Helix, Hawking (chosen for its coverage of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), Fantastic Voyage, Osmosis Jones, and Miss Evers’ Boys.

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I finally decided to go with Something the Lord Made, a 2004 film which discusses groundbreaking work on the Tetralogy of Fallot, more commonly referred to as Blue Baby Syndrome (and also known as cyanotic heart disease). It focuses on Alfred Blalock and Vivien Thomas, whose surgical techniques helped to pioneer modern heart surgery. They first work to recreate the Blue Baby Syndrome in dogs, then learn to alleviate the problem by creating a new duct that shunts much of the subclavian artery’s blood to the pulmonary artery, increasing the oxygenation of this blood. The movie goes into depth on circulation and helps students connect classroom content to real-life applications.

As the (true) story takes place in the 1930s and 1940s, it also allows students to see how things were during the Great Depression and during times of widespread segregation. Since Vivien Thomas is African American, Johns Hopkins University only allows him to be hired as a janitor, and Thomas must enter through a separate entrance. The movie goes on to show how Thomas, through persistence and hard work, rises above the poverty and racism to become a teacher of other surgeons. Although Thomas is never able to go to college, his work with Blalock allows him to become supervisor of surgical laboratories. Later, Johns Hopkins names him an instructor of surgery and bestows on him an honorary doctorate. Thomas’s portrait now hangs in the lobby of the Alfred Blalock Clinical Sciences Building across from that of Alfred Blalock himself.

The students enjoyed the movie, although it took them a while to get pulled into the story. They were shocked by how open the surgical rooms used to be, with a gallery in the room for other doctors to watch. We also discussed the movie’s portrayal of animal research, ethical obligations for physicians, and A&P concepts. Unfortunately, we only had about five minutes for this discussion, since the movie itself took 90 minutes of the two-hour lab period, and I also had to pass out and discuss tests. If I have another “movie day” in the future, I’ll make sure that we don’t have to do anything else that day, so that we can delve more deeply into the movie.

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Julia Schmitz is an Associate Professor of Biology in the Natural Sciences Department at Piedmont College as well as director of their Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP). She teaches courses in microbiology, medical microbiology, general biology, and anatomy and physiology. She is a member of the Human Anatomy and Physiology Society, The American Physiological Society, The American Society for Microbiology, and the Association of Biology Laboratory Educators.


Articulating a Joint Meeting

2019 HAPS-AACA Southern Regional Meeting Artwork

Two great professional societies — One great regional conference!

Much like the Kentucky Derby packs a lot of excitement in two short minutes of horse racing, we are going to be packing a ton of Anatomy and Physiology into one fabulous conference day and you can bet you won’t want to miss it!  The American Association for Clinical Anatomists (AACA) and the Human Anatomy and Physiology Society (HAPS) invite YOU to attend our first ever Joint AACA/HAPS Regional Conference at Bellarmine University in Louisville, KY (home of the Kentucky Derby!) on Saturday, March 30, 2019.  Great speakers, workshops, posters, and even multiple cadaver lab experiences await you. The last day to register at the Early Bird registration rate and submit a workshop or poster proposal is March 1, 2019.

How did this joint venture get started?  In the fall of 2015, I moved from Houston, TX to Louisville, KY and I met Dr. David Porta in the Biology Department at Bellarmine University.  He was teaching Gross Anatomy and I was teaching Vertebrate Physiology and we both were teaching Human Anatomy & Physiology. As David showed me where lab supplies were and we small talked, we discovered we both served on the boards of professional societies, AACA for him and HAPS for me.  Because we obviously weren’t busy enough and we thought there would be some synergy between the interests of AACA and HAPS, we hatched an idea to co-host a regional meeting. We had round table discussions with a few more anatomists from Bellarmine and the University of Louisville and we outlined what we think will be a great conference for instructors of Anatomy and Physiology.  Here’s a glimpse of the platform presentations and cadaver workshop opportunities.

Dr. Jeffrey Petruska will be presenting research on neural connectivity recently discovered by using modern molecular techniques combined with old school classical neurophysiology and gross anatomy observations.  My co-host Dr. David Porta will be presenting his research on the biomechanical techniques used to analyze different types of bone fractures and how this data has been used as legal evidence in hit-and-run as well as malpractice cases.  David will offer coordinating workshops in the cadaver lab where participants will extract bone, mount it on the fracturing apparatus, and then analyze the fragments.

Hope to see you in Louisville!

Rachel Hopp


Conference Co-Host Rachel Hopp, PhD, Department of Biology, University of Louisville, Southern Regional Director of HAPS

David Porta Head shot

Conference Co-Host and Update Speaker David Porta, PhD, Department of Biology, Bellarmine University, Past Program Secretary of AACA


Update Speaker Jeffrey Petruska, PhD, Department of Anatomical Sciences & Neurobiology, Member of the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center, University of Louisville School of Medicine


Digging deeper with HAPS

Last fall, the HAPS Board approved a new task force on Diversity and Inclusion Goals (DIG). The purpose of DIG is to develop best practices, resources, and professional development for inclusive education in anatomy and physiology (A&P). The endgame is transformation of ourselves, where we create the best learning environment for all the learners we serve.

Why should you “DIG” it?

The mission of HAPS is to promote excellence in the teaching of A&P. On a professional level, educators need to understand diversity, inclusivity, and equity. This allows us to competently talk to and teach our students as well as create a classroom environment conducive to learning for all. In addition, we must adapt our approach in and out of the classroom to the increasing diversity of identity groups in our student populations. These identities include gender identity, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic class, religion, ability, preparation level, ancestry, and fluency in English, and any one of these identities can be barriers to learning for our students, and impact us as educators.

HAPS is poised to be a leader in generating materials to explore diversity content within anatomy and physiology courses as well as create inclusive classroom environments. Our classrooms are spaces where diversity conversations are deeply relevant, and there remains a critical need for exploring diversity within the context of science and connecting science to society. To be culturally competent within their field, students must be exposed to diverse viewpoints and alternative ways of thinking.  Engaging others who hold different ideas and experiences raises awareness of their own identities and opens new approaches to problem solving. As society changes, new questions arise in the classroom that are relevant to A&P, such as the application of big data to health records, how assisted reproductive technologies should be used, controversies over animal dissection, and many others. Additionally, HAPS members train future health providers and scientists, putting us in the unique position to shape healthcare and biomedical science.

Want to “DIG” into the work?

Here are some ways for you to get involved:

  • Consider presenting a workshop at the Annual Meeting! We would love to see how HAPS members create inclusive and diverse classrooms and curricula. What does an inclusive A&P class look like? How does a professor convey that they are committed to student safety and success regardless of the student’s identities? What types of content or activities provide students with experiences that help them flourish? What advice do you have on handling mistakes in the classroom gracefully? How do you accommodate students with disabilities in your lecture or labs? What role do textbook authors and vendors play in shaping inclusive curricula?
  • Take the upcoming Diversity and Inclusion Membership Survey! With a release date in May 2019, DIG hopes to gather membership data that will tell us who we are as an organization and identify needs in diversity issues.
  • Share your ideas! The HAPS blog, HAPS Educator, Discussion Boards, and Teaching Tips Site are all great places to contribute your ideas and engage with colleagues.

“DIG” deeper

Look for our information table, poster, and workshop at the 2019 Annual Meeting. We’d love to chat with you! Or feel free to contact me if you’d like to learn more.


Kathy Burleson is a Senior Lecturer at Hamline University, where she teaches in the Biology, Exercise Science, and Public Health programs. She is the lead of the HAPS Diversity and Inclusion Goals Task Force.


Don’t Get All Hyper!

One of the most challenging aspects of anatomy for new students is the specialized terminology. We use these terms so we can communicate effectively. But, achieving this goal requires a shared understanding of standard terms and their meanings.

Last fall, there was a robust discussion on HAPS-L about defining “hyperextension”. In general, the contributors agree that extension increases the angle between segments of a common joint. But, defining hyperextension was trickier.

Some sources define hyperextension by the angle of the joint. However, there is disagreement over whether the “neutral” (normal anatomic) position should be designated as 180° or 0°. Furthermore, in some joints, extension normally exceeds the neutral position. So, an arbitrary limit based on the angle between adjoining bones will be difficult to apply universally.

Another option is to use the basic definition of extension as movement relative to normal anatomic position without reference to specific angles. While this is more practical, it makes the definition of hyperextension more complex. For example, the metatarsophalangeal, talocrural, and acetabulofemoral joints all normally extend past NAP.

At a minimum, the definition is in the name:  ‘hyper’ means ‘beyond’ or ‘over’, so generally, it is extension beyond the normal range of motion. However, even that definition has its own difficulties. Consider for example the degree of back or hip extension in this contortionist…


…this range of motion is far beyond what any of us would consider normal (or even desirable), but it is quite within the “normal” range for individuals trained for this activity.

Less extreme examples of “enhanced” extension can occur in cases of general ligamentous laxity and or of variations in joint surfaces that result in being able to extend (and in some cases, flex or rotate) beyond the range we have defined as normal. Elite athletes and other performers may often produce movements that exceed the textbook descriptions of “normal” ranges of motion.


After teaching A&P within and among several programs and majors, I have found that different disciplines often “flavor” terminology to highlight the issues most relevant to their professional concerns. For example, students of athletic performance or rehabilitation are concerned with the potential or actual injuries that often occur with hyperextension. However, even though hyperextension can cause injuries, as the examples above indicate, injury is not always the result.

The one element that all definitions have in common is that hyperextension is extending beyond the normal ROM. So, if we agree that this concept is essential to the general definition, we have a minimal standard of reference in the commonality in how the concept is expressed. Borrowing a page from C.S. Lewis, let’s call this “mere hyperextension”.

For “mere hyperextension”, we take the literal meanings of the prefix and root: hyper means “above” or “beyond” and “extension” is the movement of the joint in a way that increases the angle between structures on opposite sides of the joint. Thus, hyperextension would be extension beyond the usual anatomic range of motion.


Andrew Petto recently retired as Distinguished Lecturer Emeritus from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee where he taught anatomy and physiology beginning in 2004. He began teaching human anatomy and physiology (to mortuary students) in 1989, and has since taught A&P to massage therapists, dancers, physical therapists, nurses, and herds of undergraduates at UWM, His PhD is in Biological Anthropology (comparative functional morphology) with post-doctoral studies in primate behavioral biology at Harvard Medical School (NERPRC) and in primate ecology in the Department of Anthropology at UW-Madison, supplemented by graduate studies in curriculum and instruction at Drexel University. His latest book, Human Structure and Function—an interactive textbook for students outside the sciences—was published by Tophat in 2017. His next book, Humans, is a collaboration with Alice Beck Kehoe of an introductory textbook on our species

The Rule of Threes: Self-care advice for A&P Instructors, Part 2

Back in October, I shared a personal anecdote in part 1 “The Rule of Threes: Self-care advice for the A&P instructor”. In the post, I mentioned a list I created over the summer while preparing for the fall semester. This list included three behaviors to stop and three behaviors to start, both for the sake of my students and myself. I have always found stopping behaviors to be more challenging than starting new ones, so I thought it was best to first clear the space in my head (and my calendar) for new behaviors! As I wound down from the fall semester and reflected on what went well and what might need to change, I thought it was a good time to finish what I started.

My Three Things to Start:
Start off on the right foot
Many of us have (or have at least heard of) “syllabus day”. Traditionally, this is the first day of class, where no material is presented, but all policies and course expectations are reviewed. This might include reading through the syllabus with the students, page by page or administering a syllabus quiz…..  the possibilities are endless! Over the years, I have relied on this day to reassure myself that my students were clear on their schedule and all course policies, but (as I referenced in part 1) there is no guarantee of that. Over the summer, I sat back and thought to myself, “How quickly would I zone out if someone was delivering a presentation on policies and procedures to me? Is there a much more important message to send on my first interaction with my students, which for most of them is their first meeting with a professor in college?” After my experience this semester in A&P 1, my overwhelming conclusion is YES.

This year, I created a presentation on the first day that was primarily focused on welcoming them to my classroom and to the study of the human body. I told them who I was, and why I love being a teacher. I shared my endless fascination and passion for A&P, and how much I hoped that they would leave my class feeling the same. I spent time being honest with them about how often students struggle in A&P, and why that is so that they knew from day one that this course would demand a lot of time and attention from them. I shared several best practices/strategies for success that both I, and former students, have used. I even created a Monday-Sunday A&P work schedule for them (which several of my students have followed) to help them feel less overwhelmed while simultaneously making them aware of the amount of work necessary to be successful. Throughout the presentation, I shared many personal stories of my struggles and triumphs as a student so that they knew I understood how they might be feeling. I even addressed academic integrity in a different way. Rather than running down the penalties for cheating, I talked about why it ultimately hurts them to cheat, even if they are never caught. I ended my presentation asking my students to repeat aloud the phrase “You are NEVER bothering me”, which I have reinforced in every one-on-one or small group meeting, and in nearly every class period. This was easily the simplest, but most effective thing I’ve ever done as an instructor.

Start pulling back the curtain
One of the most controversial discussions I see in higher education is about instructor vulnerability, meaning, how much we let our students “in”. This applies to letting them in on both who we are outside the classroom and on our reasoning behind course design. I think we can all agree on one point: no one likes criticism, and all of us struggle with how to handle it. This year, I started talking openly with all my students about the rationale for each assignment, or the form of an assessment. I am sure we have all had end of semester course evaluations in which students lamented that there were too many, or too few exams, or that there wasn’t enough time on an exam, or that an assessment counted for too much. It’s easy to assume that these comments are only coming from students not achieving the grades they want, but what student wants their time wasted? Are grades the only thing that matters? Of course not! We want our students to enjoy themselves in a course, and to trust that we are not wasting their time.

Think about your own life experiences – how much more motivated are you in any activity when you truly understand the value of the activity, no matter how challenging? Conversely, how quickly will you doubt, or give up on an activity if you can’t see the benefit? Share your rationale with your students for what you ask them to do. For example, I had one student this quarter ask me why there was a time limit on their weekly, open book quiz. She reported that this caused her some anxiety which she felt was negatively impacting her performance. This was a great opportunity to talk about the importance of building stress-tolerance, especially as a future nurse! Since the midterm and final exam, all exams in her future courses, and eventually, the NCLEX are timed we talked about viewing the quizzes as an opportunity to prepare for all these higher stake situations. After this talk, she felt differently about the time limit. Share your rationale with your students. If you can’t come up with a clear rationale behind an assessment or its design, it might be an opportunity to re-evaluate.

Start scheduling fun
This is the Human Anatomy and Physiology Society. Every day, there are incredible conversations about best practices in teaching A&P, new teaching tips, and inspiring stories. I could add another piece of advice for the classroom, but I would likely be repeating someone else’s words, or thoughts you’ve already had!  What is not talked about nearly enough is life outside of the classroom. I don’t know about you, but left to my own devices on a weekend, I will work. Plans with friends fell through? No problem! I can read those journal articles or work on next semester’s presentations! Ah, the endless pursuit of the dopamine hit that comes with checking a box off on the to-do list. The problem is that the to-do list is endless. Our careers are not like home improvement projects, where once the crown molding is up we can finally relax. The perpetual fear I spoke of in part 1 about not being “enough” also comes with anxiety that I will somehow not get everything done. This fall, I decided I needed to make a weekly appointment with myself, whether to watch movies all day, bake any of the recipes I collected, go roller skating, or decorate the house we built last year that I’ve barely done more than sleep in! The point was, to do nothing “productive”.

If this sounds plain crazy to you, congratulations, you have a healthy balance to your life! For a long time, anything that didn’t have a clear “result” left me feeling guilty that I wasted precious time. In only a few short months, I am happy to report just how wrong I was. When I started scheduling fun, and being just “me” for even one day a week, I had time to rest and reflect on everything I was doing, and what I actually wanted to be doing at work. Now, I cannot wait to get back to the classroom every Monday. Despite (on paper) being busier than I have ever been in my career, I somehow feel calmer than ever, and confident that it will all get done. I have no doubt that this is easier said than done, otherwise, I would have done it years ago! If you too are living in a perpetual cycle of work, or guilt about not being “productive” enough, consider the idea that investing in yourself is the most productive thing you can do for everyone around you.


Krista Rompolski is an Assistant Professor in the Health Sciences Department at Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA. She is an active member of the Human Anatomy and Physiology Society and the American Academy of Anatomists. Her teaching interests include pathophysiology, gross anatomy, and anatomy and physiology.

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


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.


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.

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?


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.


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.





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.