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The common language of medicine: Human Anatomy

Human AnatomyThe Human Anatomy (HA) course in the Genes to Society first year curriculum coincides with Clinical Foundations of Medicine; while students learn the clinical side of medicine, they also learn the physical.  Dr. Chris Ruff, the HA program director, has been teaching anatomy for 30+ years, and has a justly in-depth viewpoint on this course and its impact on first year students.  All of which, he shared with us in a recent interview.

Human Anatomy is a defining course in the journey of becoming a doctor.  No matter what specialty or type of doctor a student becomes, everyone needs to know the anatomy of the human body.  First year students begin medical school with a variety of concentration backgrounds and experiences.  HA creates a level playing field for all as it’s the very first anatomy course for these soon-to-be doctors.

While a large (and predictable) part of Human Anatomy is dissecting the human body, there are other important facets to the course.  Recurring themes throughout the Genes to Society curriculum, known as horizontal strands, are first introduced in HA.  Two examples of these “strands” are medical imaging and human development.  Students will see live ultrasounds, and elsewhere in the curriculum, learn about radiology, CT scans, and other medical imaging.  Lectures are presented on organ system development where they learn about how defects can form and how that relates to anatomy.

Another horizontal strand in Genes to Society is team work, a crucial aspect of the medical field.  More than half of the HA course hours involve working in teams or labs.  Students are presented with a clinical problem scenario related to what they are dissecting in HA, and as a team, the goal is to apply what they are currently learning to solve the problem.  In addition, presentations are required at the end of each week on that week’s dissections and students rely on their team for support.  A portion of the course assessment measures how well students work in groups/labs, which emphasizes the importance of team work.  These situations and projects parallel the way medical staff frequently collaborate on a patient diagnosis.

Surprisingly, not all of HA takes place in the lecture hall or anatomy lab.  The Simulation (SIM) Center here at Hopkins, which offers experiential learning for students through different types of simulation, is utilized to correspond with topics or parts of the body that are presently being covered.  For example, if students are dissecting the chest area, they may learn how to place an endotracheal tube during a fiberoptic bronchoscopy, allowing them to practice in real time what they are learning.

Human Anatomy is a seven week, five hours a day, intensive course, which prepares students for real world medicine.  As Clinical Foundations of Medicine provides the clinical groundwork for first year students, HA lays the physical foundation.  For generations, anatomy has unified medical school students through their course experiences and this latest version at Hopkins continues that quintessential tradition.