Medical Gross Anatomy

6.3 Human SkullI often get asked, “Why are you teaching human anatomy in a medical school if you’re a paleontologist?” There are a couple reasons. First, humans essentially have the same bones and muscles as every other animal with a backbone (vertebrate). Therefore, teaching human anatomy isn’t difficult for a paleontologist who studies the anatomy of extinct animals, particularly other mammals. In fact, taking a human anatomy course is a great way for a student interested in paleontology to learn about mammal (and vertebrate) structure in general. This is how I and many other paleontologists first got involved with human anatomy. Second, there are many more jobs for teaching human anatomy than for teaching or doing research in paleontology. As a consequence, a paleontologist (or an anthropologist) who can teach human anatomy has greater chances of landing a job in academia than one who cannot.

CWRU has two separate medical (MD) curricula: the University Program, based at CWRU, and the College Program, based at the Cleveland Clinic. I am one of a handful of faculty in the Department of Anatomy who are responsible for teaching gross anatomy to students in the University Track. Students in this track pursue an innovative curriculum┬áthat fully integrates the various medical subjects into a series of six sequential blocks that span the first year and a half. Anatomy is part of a cross-cutting “longitudinal” block (Block 7) that includes histology and pathology. Gross Anatomy is taught via HoloAnatomy, an application of 3D holographic models developed by CWRU that students view using the Microsoft HoloLens. Gross Anatomy instruction is integrated with Radiology and Living Anatomy (i.e., anatomy as viewed in a living human), forming what is referred to as GARLA.

My primary role in CWRU’s University Program is directing GARLA in Block 6 (Cognition, Sensation & Movement), which gives second-year medical students an appreciation of the anatomy of the head and neck as well as the brain (neuroanatomy). These sessions take place during the first half of Block 6, from mid-November through mid-January.