Medical Gross Anatomy

6.3 Human SkullI am frequently 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 is not that difficult for a vertebrate paleontologist who studies the anatomy of extinct animals, particularly one who studies other mammals. In fact, taking a human anatomy course is a great way for a student interested in paleontology to learn about vertebrate structure in general. This is how I (and many other paleontologists) first got involved with human anatomy. Second, there is much more demand (i.e., more jobs) for teaching human anatomy than for teaching or doing research in paleontology. As a consequence, a paleontologist (or a physical anthropologist) who can teach human anatomy is much more likely to get hired 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. My primary role is directing the anatomy curriculum in Block 6 (Cognition, Sensation & Movement), which aims to give second-year medical students an appreciation of the anatomy of the head and neck. Head and neck sessions take place during the first half of Block 6, from November through mid-January.