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!

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.