Monday, December 8, 2014

5 Useful Features of The A&P Professor Blog That You May Have Missed

Okay, the title is a bit misleading because a some of the five features you may have missed are new, so it may just be too early to have noticed them yet.  But there are some that have been around a while and you may not have given them much thought until now.

  1. Top menu bar.  

    I recently added a menu bar to the top of the blog page, just under the blog description.   You can link to the Home Page, Site Map, Subscription and various off-blog resources.  Explore each one to see if it's useful to you.

  2. Site Map.

    This new feature is a table of contents that lists blog posts in alphabetical lists by topic.  It's pretty big because I've been doing this blog for many years, and some posts are listed under more than one topic.  But if you are "into" the teaching of A&P, this might be a fun treasure hunt to find things you may have missed—or have simply forgotten about.

  3. Email Newsletter.

    The email newsletter for this blog, powered by Feedblitz, is a way to subscribe to this blog and be notified by email each time a new article is posted in blog.  It's free and you can safely unsubscribe at any time.  Then re-subscribe later when you find that you missed getting updates!  You may not realize that by subscribing, you also get additional content.  For example, once a month, I send out a Throwback Thursday newsletter reprising a popular article from the past that remain relevant.  I occasionally send out other "extra issues" that do not appear in the blog itself.

  4. Social Media.

    As more and more of you join the rest of the world on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media networks, you may want to follow The A&P Professor there, too.  As with the email newsletters, my Twitter and Facebook followers get additional content not found on the blog or other channels.  You can even follow my YouTube channel, where I post videos with study tips for A&P that you can share with your students.

  5. Family of Blogs and Websites.

    I have other blogs that are focused on particular topics that overlap your interest in teaching A&P.  For example, The A&P Student blog is directed at, er, A&P students.  Teachers who follow that blog pick up ideas for sharing with students who are having difficulty in your class, or link to blog posts in their course pages or syllabus.  My o-log-y blog relates specifically to the terminology of human science and medicine.  There, you may find tips for helping your students learn the language of A&P or you may find information about some of the tricky aspects of terminology that you may not already know. Check out each one to see if any of them interest you.

    Oh, and don't forget the separate website, where you can find my free image library, sign up to get free bookmarks for your students, participate in teaching seminars, and gain access to my free library of teaching slides.

Play around the edges of this blog and see what other helpful little tools you may have missed.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Your Textbook is a Mitten, Not a Glove

How well does the textbook you use in your course fit?  What I mean by that is:

  • Have you looked at whether the reading style is geared toward the students you typically encounter? Is the text written for beginners or experts?

  • Have you compared your actual expectations (objectives & expected outcomes) to the content available in the textbook?

  • Is the textbook organized in way that facilitates learning by both reading and raiding?

Of course, no textbook is going to fit you, your students, and your course like a glove.  Even if you create your own, or edit a custom version of existing text material, the fit will change as you and your course evolves as you gain teaching skills, adjust your techniques, and your students' needs change.

Textbooks fit like a mitten, not a glove. Because the best they can do is approximately fit course objectives and content, student learning needs, and your teaching approach.

But mittens are great.  They cover your hand and give you some wiggle room.

As a "mitten" your course textbook should cover what you need it to cover.  It's okay if it covers a bit more than you need.  That extra coverage will be used later for reference and future learning in professional and clinical courses.  Extra content also helps fill in prior learning gaps, which allows students to "get it" on their own as they read or raid.  And extra content may help students better see the context and importance of the required content.  Satisfying natural curiosity is not a bad thing, either.

Although well-fitting mittens cover a bit more than they need to, a mitten should not be too big.  So having so much content in a textbook that it's hard to stay focused mainly on the required content is not good for learning. Conversely, a mitten should not be so small that you can't get it around your big hand or wiggle your fingers a bit.

Some mittens have special features like a slit through which you can extend your fingers when you need more precise movements than your mitten will allow—as when opening your flask of hot tea.  If your students would benefit from a supplemental atlas, an audio glossary, a list of word parts for each term, or other special learning features of textbooks, then consider those carefully, too.

The key is to think of a textbook as an off-the-shelf item that will never fit precisely.  It's up to you to make sure it fits well enough.  And the only way to get that fit is to try on all the mittens.  Don't just glance at them, really put your hand in and see what they're like.

Plaid mittens are the best.  That has nothing to do with the analogy I'm making here—I just like plaid mittens.

Photo credits: Mélanie, Bin im Garten

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Shepherd's Apps for Teaching Physiology

Here are some computer-based activities that help students learn specific concepts of physiology produced by veteran professor Pete Shepherd.  Dr. Shepherd has been developing over the course of many years based on his extensive teaching experience.

A while back, I told you about the Life Science Teaching Resource Community and its archive of free teaching and learning resources.  Here's an example of a collection of resources from that archive that your students can use to "play around with" physiological conditions to see what changes occur in the body as a result.  All of them can either be used in the classroom/lab setting or can be used individually by students for self-learning.

Included in the collection are these apps, most of which are available on multiple platforms:

Capillary Pressure, which illustrates the vascular control of capillary hydrostatic pressure.

Alveolar Gas, which lets you study some of the physiological factors that affect the composition of alveolar and expired gases. Such factors include dead space, tidal volume, the frequency of breathing, and the rates of oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide production. A worksheet is included.

Blood Oxygen, which enables the user to change variables like the PO2, hemoglobin concentration, and hemoglobin's affinity for oxygen and calculate the concentrations of oxygen in the form of oxyhemoglobin and dissolved oxygen. Simulations include anemia, polycythemia, comparing the effects of oxygen inhalation in a pulmonary "patient" with a normal person, carbon monoxide poisoning, hyperbaria, etc., as well as the concepts of the Fick Principle and the arteriovenous oxygen difference.

Pulse Pressure, which simulates the arterial pressure pulse. The user explores factors like heart rate, stroke volume, arterial compliance, and arterial resistance and see how they affect the arterial pulse pressure.

Sat Curves, which allows the user to demonstrate the effects of pH, PCO2, DPG, and temperature on the oxyhemoglobin dissociation curve. Two graphs are displayed so that one can serve as a control and compared with the other. Cursors on both graphs can be manipulated to obtain exact readings of oxyhemoglobin saturation as specified PO2s.

If you want to check out these amazing resources, please access them in the Life Science Teaching Resource Community at

Image credit: Shepherd

Monday, November 3, 2014

Protein Mechanism in Neurodegenerative Diseases


Huntingtin, the abnormal protein that produces clumps characteristic of Huntington disease (HD), can spread from one neuron to another. That's what a recent study has uncovered. Because such protein clumping is observed in other neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer disease (AD) and Parkinson disease (PD), some scientists hope that understanding this newly discovered mechanism of transmission within brain tissue may lead to possible treatments or preventive strategies.

If you want to read more about it, check out the resources I've provided below.

What can we use from this in teaching undergraduate A&P?

  • This information can help us answer those pesky "why do we need to know all this if I'm going to be a [insert health profession here]?" challenges when covering the details of protein structure.  The sequence of amino acids and the complex folded structure of proteins really does have real-world clinical implications.  And is already becoming necessary to understand disease mechanisms and treatment strategies.  In real life!
  • Discussing the basic idea of this discovery provides a starting platform from which we can jump into discussions of 
    • Degeneration of tissues in general and neurodegeneration in particular
    • Why neurodegeneration in specific brain locations produces specific neural deficits
    • Prions and their possible roles in various disorders
    • The possible roles of genetic mechanisms in neurodegenerative disorders
    • The need to know details about protein structure (see item above)
    • Current directions in medical research—that proteins are hot!

Want to know more?

Neurodegeneration’s Spread

  • Ashley P. Taylor. The Scientist. August 4, 2014
  • Plain-English article describing the new research showing that pathogenic protein aggregates that accumulate within neurons and are a hallmark of Huntington’s disease can propagate from cell to cell.

Transneuronal propagation of mutant huntingtin contributes to non-cell autonomous pathology in neurons

  • E. Pecho-Vrieseling et al., Nature Neuroscience, 13 July 2014, doi:10.1038/nn.3761, 2014.
  • The original research article.

Huntington disease

  • PubMed Health. last reviewed 28 May 2013
  • Basic information about HD.

Why Bother with Protein Folding?

  • Kevin Patton. The A&P Professor. 22 May 2012.
  • Further discussion of why protein folding is important in the undergrad A&P course; includes links to other resources.

Want to Fold Some Proteins?

  • Kevin Patton. The A&P Professor. 13 June 2012.
  • Introduction of the Foldit game that allows anyone to participate in protein-folding research by playing an online folding game.

Monday, October 13, 2014

RNA Interference. Again.

Five years ago, I extolled the virtues of teaching a little bit about RNA interference (RNAi) in undergraduate A&P courses.  But for a while it looked like the promise of RNAi in basic and clinical research might be sputtering.  However, a recent article by Eric Bender called The Second Coming of RNAi shows that RNAi "the gene-silencing technique [now] begins to fulfill some of its promises."

I recommend reading the entire article at  Before you read it, allow me to reprise my reasons of five years ago supporting my proposal to include RNAi in your course.

What can we use from this in teaching undergraduate A&P?

  • RNAi plays a role in defending our cells against viruses by stopping viral genetic code from being translated in host cells

  • RNAi likely plays a role in regulating gene activity in a cell by preventing translation of the gene product(s)

  • RNAi is increasingly used as method for "knocking out" a particular gene's effects in research animals in order to study the gene's functions

  • RNAi is being used to treat genetic disease. . . an application that will likely expand greatly over the next few decades
I'll add two more items to my previous list:
  • RNA interference is a mechanism of human disease, as has been demonstrated in some cases of inherited progressive hearing loss (for example).

  • Learning about RNAi helps clarify a general understanding of the many roles played by RNA in our lives—some perhaps still undiscovered.

I'm not sure that it's useful to expect beginning undergraduate students to learn the nitty-gritty details of RNAi mechanisms.  But I do think it's valuable to be exposed to the general concept of RNA interference and gene silencing.  A&P students are going to run up against these eventually as they learn about and then administer RNAi-based therapies, after all.  And perhaps we should prepare them.

Want to know more?

The Second Coming of RNAi
  • Eric Bender. The Scientist. September 1, 2014
  • Article mentioned above. In plain English, it shows that clinical progress in RNAi therapy against liver diseases, the gene-silencing technique begins to fulfill some of its promises. Includes useful illustrations and links to other resources.

Why do we need to know about RNA interference?
  • Kevin Patton. The A&P Professor. 14 April 2009
  • My first article promoting the idea of teaching RNAi in the A&P course.  It links to an expanded article with additional teaching resources.

RNA interference revisited
  • Kevin Patton. The A&P Professor. 9 June 2009
  • Brief follow-up article that references the role of RNA interference as a mechanism of human disease.  Links to other resources.

RNA Interference Animation and Slideshow
  • Nature Reviews Genetics. Accessed 3 September 2014
  • FREE animation, slideshow, and poster on RNAi, as well as a link to more details.

RNA Interference BioInteractive
  • Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Accessed 3 September 2014
  • FREE slideshow with worksheet that students fill out as they view the slideshow.  Links to FREE DVD from HMMI called The Double Life of RNA.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Nobel Prize 2014: Super-resolved fluorescence microscopy

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 2014 to

Eric Betzig
Janelia Farm Research Campus, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Ashburn, VA, USA,

Stefan W. Hell
Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Göttingen, and German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg, Germany


William E. Moerner
Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA

“for the development of
super-resolved fluorescence microscopy”

Surpassing the limitations of the light microscope

For a long time optical microscopy was held back by a presumed limitation: that it would never obtain a better resolution than half the wavelength of light. Helped by fluorescent molecules the Nobel Laureates in Chemistry 2014 ingeniously circumvented this limitation. Their ground-breaking work has brought optical microscopy into the nanodimension.

In what has become known as nanoscopy, scientists visualize the pathways of individual molecules inside living cells. They can see how molecules create synapses between nerve cells in the brain; they can track proteins involved in Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s diseases as they aggregate; they follow individual proteins in fertilized eggs as these divide into embryos.

It was all but obvious that scientists should ever be able to study living cells in the tiniest molecular detail. In 1873, the microscopist Ernst Abbe stipulated a physical limit for the maximum resolution of traditional optical microscopy: it could never become better than 0.2 micrometres. Eric Betzig, Stefan W. Hell and William E. Moerner are awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2014 for having bypassed this limit. Due to their achievements the optical microscope can now peer into the nanoworld.

Two separate principles are rewarded. 

One enables the method stimulated emission depletion (STED) microscopy, developed by Stefan Hell in 2000. Two laser beams are utilized; one stimulates fluorescent molecules to glow, another cancels out all fluorescence except for that in a nanometre-sized volume. Scanning over the sample, nanometre for nanometre, yields an image with a resolution better than Abbe’s stipulated limit.

Eric Betzig and William Moerner, working separately, laid the foundation for the second method, single-molecule microscopy. The method relies upon the possibility to turn the fluorescence of individual molecules on and off. Scientists image the same area multiple times, letting just a few interspersed molecules glow each time. Superimposing these images yields a dense super-image resolved at the nanolevel. In 2006 Eric Betzig utilized this method for the first time.

Today, nanoscopy is used world-wide and new knowledge of greatest benefit to mankind is produced on a daily basis.

This video is a brief animation of how STED works and how it improves resolution of individual particles.

This video is a longer, more detailed presentation by one of the Nobel laureates (Hell).

What can we use from this in teaching undergraduate A&P?

  • Discuss how this technology has enabled us to better visualize the chemicals and structures within our cells, enabling scientists to better understand the structure and function of cell, organelles, microbiome constituents, and other structures of the human body.

  • If you do a brief run-through of the theory of microscopy—perhaps in your A&P lab—you can add a mention of this technology.  

  • Your textbook or other learning resource may already have an example of this type of microscopy.

  • A discussion of this  Nobel Prize could evolve into a meaningful example of how science works, including how incremental improvements in classical tools for observation expand the number of questions that can be answered.

  • Use the links below (and images above) to use for a handout and/or teaching slides.

Want to know more?

Resources from

  • Popular Information 
  • Scientific Background
    • Handout: More detailed information includes references to original research articles
  • Advanced Information
  • Images
  • Biographies
    • Eric Betzig, 
      • U.S. citizen. Born 1960 in Ann Arbor, MI, USA. Ph.D. 1988 from Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA. Group Leader at Janelia Farm Research Campus, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Ashburn, VA, USA.
    • Stefan W. Hell, German citizen. 
      • Born 1962 in Arad, Romania. Ph.D. 1990 from the University of Heidelberg, Germany. Director at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Göttingen, and Division head at the German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg, Germany.
    • William E. Moerner, U.S. citizen. 
      • Born 1953 in Pleasanton, CA, USA. Ph.D. 1982 from Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA. Harry S. Mosher Professor in Chemistry and Professor, by courtesy, of Applied Physics at Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA.

Diagrram cretit: Ganbaatar
Micrograph credit: Tesselkaffee
Text adapted from press release from Nobel Media

Monday, October 6, 2014

Nobel Prize 2014: The Brain's Positioning System

The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet has today decided to award

The 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

with one half to

John O´Keefe

and the other half jointly to

May-Britt Moser and Edvard I. Moser

for their discoveries of cells that constitute a positioning 
system in the brain.

How do we know where we are? How can we find the way from one place to another? And how can we store this information in such a way that we can immediately find the way the next time we trace the same path? This year´s Nobel Laureates have discovered a positioning system, an “inner GPS” in the brain that makes it possible to orient ourselves in space, demonstrating a cellular basis for higher cognitive function.

In 1971, John O´Keefe discovered the first component of this positioning system. He found that a type of nerve cell in an area of the brain called the hippocampus that was always activated when a rat was at a certain place in a room. Other nerve cells were activated when the rat was at other places. O´Keefe concluded that these “place cells” formed a map of the room.

More than three decades later, in 2005, May-Britt and Edvard Moser discovered another key component of the brain’s positioning system. They identified another type of nerve cell, which they called “grid cells”, that generate a coordinate system and allow for precise positioning and pathfinding.

Their subsequent research showed how place and grid cells make it possible to determine position and to navigate.

The discoveries of John O´Keefe, May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser have solved a problem that has occupied philosophers and scientists for centuries – how does the brain create a map of the space surrounding us and how can we navigate our way through a complex environment?

How do we experience our environment?

The sense of place and the ability to navigate are fundamental to our existence. The sense of place gives a perception of position in the environment. During navigation, it is interlinked with a sense of distance that is based on motion and knowledge of previous positions.

Questions about place and navigation have engaged philosophers and scientists for a long time. More than 200 years ago, the German philosopher Immanuel Kant argued that some mental abilities exist as a priori knowledge, independent of experience. He considered the concept of space as an inbuilt principle of the mind, one through which the world is and must be perceived. With the advent of behavioural psychology in the mid-20th century, these questions could be addressed experimentally. When Edward Tolman examined rats moving through labyrinths, he found that they could learn how to navigate, and proposed that a “cognitive map” formed in the brain allowed them to find their way. But questions still lingered - how would such a map be represented in the brain?

John O´Keefe and the place in space

John O´Keefe was fascinated by the problem of how the brain controls behaviour and decided, in the late 1960s, to attack this question with neurophysiological methods. When recording signals from individual nerve cells in a part of the brain called the hippocampus, in rats moving freely in a room, O’Keefe discovered that certain nerve cells were activated when the animal assumed a particular place in the environment (Figure 1). He could demonstrate that these “place cells” were not merely registering visual input, but were building up an inner map of the environment. O’Keefe concluded that the hippocampus generates numerous maps, represented by the collective activity of place cells that are activated in different environments. Therefore, the memory of an environment can be stored as a specific combination of place cell activities in the hippocampus.

May-Britt and Edvard Moser find the coordinates

May-Britt and Edvard Moser were mapping the connections to the hippocampus in rats moving in a room when they discovered an astonishing pattern of activity in a nearby part of the brain called the entorhinal cortex. Here, certain cells were activated when the rat passed multiple locations arranged in a hexagonal grid (Figure 2). Each of these cells was activated in a unique spatial pattern and collectively these “grid cells” constitute a coordinate system that allows for spatial navigation. Together with other cells of the entorhinal cortex that recognize the direction of the head and the border of the room, they form circuits with the place cells in the hippocampus. This circuitry constitutes a comprehensive positioning system, an inner GPS, in the brain (Figure 3).

A place for maps in the human brain

Recent investigations with brain imaging techniques, as well as studies of patients undergoing neurosurgery, have provided evidence that place and grid cells exist also in humans. In patients with Alzheimer´s disease, the hippocampus and entorhinal cortex are frequently affected at an early stage, and these individuals often lose their way and cannot recognize the environment. Knowledge about the brain´s positioning system may, therefore, help us understand the mechanism underpinning the devastating spatial memory loss that affects people with this disease.

The discovery of the brain’s positioning system represents a paradigm shift in our understanding of how ensembles of specialized cells work together to execute higher cognitive functions. It has opened new avenues for understanding other cognitive processes, such as memory, thinking and planning.

What can we use from this in teaching undergraduate A&P?

  • The role of the hippocampus and it's place cells could be briefly discussed as you explore the cognitive functions of the brain.

  • A discussion of this year's Nobel Prize could evolve into a meaningful example of how science works, including the use of discoveries in animals that can later be applied to learning more about human structure and function.

  • Information revealed by this discovery could be discussed when discussing human disorders, such as Alzheimer disease, that involve impairments of spatial orientation and/or place memory.

Want to know more?

Here's a video in which May-Britt Moser and Edvard I. Moser explain their research, which you can use in your course discussion.

2014 Nobel Prize announcement

  • Official announcement, which includes photos of the laureates and links to related information.

Scientific Background: The Brain’s Navigational Place and Grid Cell System

  • accessed 6 October 2014
  • Plain English hand-out that can be used with your students.  Illustrated with clear diagrams.

Nobel Prize in Medicine Is Awarded for Discovery of Brain’s ‘Inner GPS’

  • L. Altman The New York Times. OCT. 6, 2014
  • Plain English article summarizing the discoveries.

The hippocampus as a spatial map. Preliminary evidence from unit activity in the freely‐moving rat.

  • O'Keefe, J., and Dostrovsky, J. (1971). Brain Research 34, 171-175.
  • Original research paper describing key discoveries for which this prize is given.

Place units in the hippocampus of the freely moving rat.

  • O´Keefe, J. (1976). Experimental Neurology 51, 78-109.
  • Original research paper describing key discoveries for which this prize is given.

Spatial representation in the entorhinal cortex.

  • Fyhn, M., Molden, S., Witter, M.P., Moser, E.I., Moser, M.B. (2004)  Science 305, 1258-1264.
  • Original research paper describing key discoveries for which this prize is given.

Microstructure of spatial map in the entorhinal cortex.

  • Hafting, T., Fyhn, M., Molden, S., Moser, M.B., and Moser, E.I. (2005). Nature 436, 801-806.
  • Original research paper describing key discoveries for which this prize is given.

Article adapted from Nobel Media press release

Monday, September 29, 2014

No Red Pens!

Red F grade

All teachers use red pens to grade student work, right?  Not this teacher.  I haven't used a red pen in over a decade.  I have strong reasons for that.

Many years ago, I happened to be scanning some information about research on the psychological effects of colors.  I was planning a major overhaul of my writing studio and wanted to find a paint color that would not interfere with my focus and productivity—or perhaps even enhance my productivity.  That's when I ran across something that pointed out some unintended adverse effects of using a red pen for grading student work.

As we all know, red is an alarm color.  Red signals danger, right?  So it's alarming—perhaps downright scary—to see red.  That works great when you are designing a stop sign or painting an alarm box.  But perhaps it's not so great when you are trying to provide helpful feedback.

Yes, I know that red ink stands out from the black or blue ink in student work so it can be easily distinguished.  But you know what?  So does green ink!

I've found that making comments in green, whether praising a great effort or correcting an error, has an overall positive effect on reactions by my students.  Green is the color of growth and reassurance, after all.  A whole different signal than red's message of danger and anger.

There's some evidence that blue ink may be a better choice.  But some of my students use blue ink themselves, so my comments would blend in too much. I've had good luck with green, so I'm sticking with it for now.

It may just be that by switching to green ink, it was me that changed.  Perhaps every time I grade with a green pen, I'm reminded that I want to be nurturing and positive in my feedback—not mean and condescending.

Don't take my word for it!  Try it yourself.  I realize that this seems silly and trivial, but it works. I doubt whether you'll go back to red for grading again.

What can we use from this in teaching undergraduate A&P?

  • Grading papers and assigning grades in green sends a nurturing signal, not an angry message.
  • Providing written feedback in green to colleagues (peers, supervisors, subordinates) maintains a positive, constructive tone rather than an angry tone.

Want to know more?

Color and psychological functioning: The effect of red on performance attainment.

  • Elliot, A J. et al. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Vol 136(1), Feb 2007, 154-168. doi: 10.1037/0096-3445.136.1.154
  • Research reporting a negative effect of using red in learning situations.


  • KW Jacobs and J. Suess Perceptual and Motor Skills 1975,Volume 41, Issue , pp. 207-210. doi: 10.2466/pms.1975.41.1.207
  • Research article showing that red tends to increase anxiety levels in undergraduates.

Parents to teachers: No more red pencils

  • Associated Press. 4 March 2005
  • Article on reactions to grading in red.

Red Ink May Lead to Lower Grades

  • Guy Raz National Public Radio 29 May 2010
  • Audio reporting on the unintended effects of color use in grading—actually affecting the grade.

School Bans Teachers From Using Red Ink Because Everyone Knows Red Ink Is Mean

  • Maria Guido Mommyish 20 March 2014
  • Blog post by a mom reacting to a local school's ban on grading in red ink.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Sweeteners Alter Gut Microbiome to Promote Glucose Intolerance

I'll never forget when Ira Fritz, my doctoral committee chair, practically slapped a packet of artificial sweetener out of my hand as I was about to put it into my iced tea.  "That stuff will kill you!" he said as he extracted from me an oath to swear off the stuff.  I'm not sure I quite believed him, but to this day I still drink my iced tea unsweetened.

As usual, Ira was right.  Recently another brick has been added to the foundation of his concern about sugar substitutes. Researchers have found that sweeteners such as saccharine, sucralose, aspartame can alter the microbial ecosystem of our gut in a way that promotes the development of glucose intolerance.  Glucose intolerance is part of metabolic syndrome, one of the most significant epidemics of our (or any) era.

At least as interesting as this microbial mediation between our diet and our metabolic function is the fact that only those human subjects who were responders exhibited the changes observed.  This underscores our emerging view about the individualized nature of human nutrition and metabolism.

What can we use from this in teaching undergraduate A&P?

  • We have yet another example to share regarding why and how the human microbial system plays such a vital role in our body.

  • This may be an interesting story to bring up when discussing immunity in our A&P course, perhaps giving a preview of later topics on the gut microbiome and nutrition/metabolism.

  • Nutrition and metabolism are not the same for everyone.  So the basic principles learned in an A&P course are likely to be generally true for humans, but not necessarily entirely true for every individual.

  • Yet another example of the principle "you are what you eat."

  • And here's another case of continued scientific research refining the story of what we know about human structure and function.  Consider mentioning it when you are explaining scientific methodology and it's relevance to A&P at the start of your course.  An interesting discussion may ensue after asking, "does this mean we should stop using sugar substitutes?"

Want to know more?

Artificial Sweeteners Linked to Glucose Intolerance

  • Beth Skwarecki. Medscape Medical News. September 17, 2014
  • Article summarizing the recent research.

Sugar Substitutes, Gut Bacteria, and Glucose Intolerance

  • Anna Azvolinsky. TheScientist. September 17, 2014
  • Another plain-English article covering how the consumption of artificial sweeteners results in glucose intolerance is mediated by changes in the gut microbiota in both mice and humans.

Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota

  • Jotham Suez, et al. Nature. doi:10.1038/nature13793 September 17, 2014
  • Research article outlining the discovery of the sweetener-gut-glucose intolerance  link. Includes numerous illustrations.

Metabolic Syndrome 

  • S Wang, et al. Medscape. Updated 23 April 2014
  • Detailed Medscap entry summarizing various aspects of metabolic syndrome.

Diet Sodas, as Well as Regular Ones, Raise Diabetes Risk

  • Miriam E. Tucker. Medscape Medical News. February 14, 2013
  • Article summarizing research showing that women who drink large amounts of diet soda are at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Consumption of artificially and sugar-sweetened beverages and incident type 2 diabetes in the Etude Epidémiologique auprès des femmes de la Mutuelle Générale de l'Education Nationale–European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition cohort

  • Guy Fagherazzi, et al. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. January 30, 2013. 
  • Original research article about the diet soda-diabetes link.

Photo: S. Snodgrass

Monday, September 15, 2014

Updated Cell Transport Slides

Many longtime readers of this blog know that I have a set of animated PowerPoint-compatible slides available for you to use FREE in your A&P classes.  These slides—the Lion Den Slide Collection— supplement the publisher-supplied slides or homegrown slides that you are already using.

I recently updated, improved, and expanded the set of slides that animate several key cell transport processes such as diffusion, osmosis, endocytosis, etc.

If you've accessed the Lion Den Slide Collection in the last several months, you've already registered in the system and probably have already received an email notification of the update.

If you're new to the collection (or accessed it before June 2014) then you need to go to the Lion Den Slide Collection page and click on the link to the form.  It takes a few steps, but by filling out the brief forms you register for a service that will notify you (if you want it) of any updates or additions to the collection.

Here is a preview the newly updated Membrane Transport Animations
Click image for download

When you download the linked file, you'll be able to play it in PowerPoint or any other program that plays "show" or PPTSX files.  The slides can only be viewed, not edited or added to your own slide deck.  To do that, you must download the fully editable PPTX files from the Lion Den Slide Collection

Once you download any slide deck from the Lion Den Slide Collection, you can mix and match them to blend them with your existing presentations.  You can also alter the content or timings to suit your needs.  

I'm hoping you'll also get some ideas from them to create new additional slides!  If you modify, create, or already have any slides (for which you own the content) that you want to place in the collection for sharing, please contact me directly. 

Want to know more?

Presentation Zen
  • Kevin Patton The Electronic Professor 6 August 2014
  • The zen approach to presentations.  Includes a video and links to resources.

Are your students dodging bullets?
  • Kevin Patton. The Electronic Professor. 28 July 2011
  • My blog article on improving slide presentations.  With illustrated examples.

Handling bullets safely
  • Kevin Patton. The Electronic Professor.  3 August 2012
  • Another of my blog articles on improving slide presentations. Includes my own video on how to trim down those wordy slides to something that actually works in a slide.

Monday, September 8, 2014


A story broadcast recently on National Public Radio (NPR) highlighted the role of a Pre-A&P course in student success.

Listen to the story yourself (link below) and tell me you don't recognize the issues brought up there.  Students failing A&P because they just don't know how to read a science textbook, don't know how to study, and don't have higher-order thinking skills.

You may recall my bringing up some of these issues in a recent blog post Help Your Students Get Off to a Good Start.

The story mentions a course to help students through these difficulties at West Kentucky Community and Technical College.  But I know of a lot of colleges that are taking this approach to improving student success, including my own.

Some of you have already participated in one of my past seminars on how we did it.  It involves a two-phase approach:

  • Pre-A&P Foundations in Science
    • An elective, developmental-level one-credit course.
    • Completely online, self-paced course.
    • Ten modules reviewing basic concepts needed for success in A&P:
      • Science Basics
      • Introductory Chemistry
      • Biological Chemistry
      • Introduction to Cells
      • Cell Transport
      • Getting Energy
      • Making Proteins
      • Introductory Genetics
      • Tissues
      • The Human Body
    • Each module is comprehensive, reviewing all prior modules.
    • Mastery-based: students proceed to the next module only if they pass the current module by 85% or better. 
    • Passing the comprehensive final exam at mastery level earns a "Pass" grade.

  • A&P 1 Supplement
    • An elective, 200-level one-credit course.
    • Runs concurrently with A&P 1 lecture/lab sequence.
    • Addresses basic study skills, as applied to what students are studying in A&P
    • Specifically addresses "trouble spots" typically encountered
    • Provides coaching and support of students in real time

What can we use from this in teaching undergraduate A&P?

Look at what others have done and consider trying your own version of Pre-A&P and/or supplemental A&P study-skills courses! 

If you are interested in our take on this, then listen to my seminar (link below). But I've helped several other colleges get their own version of this strategy off the ground, and it's working. 

Want to know more?

The Toughest Class In Nursing School Is The First One

  • Zoe Chace. Planet Money (NPR). September 02, 2014
  • Radio story of one example of Pre-A&P helping students (and increasing A&P success rates).

Helping Students Succeed: Using Supplemental Courses to Reinforce Concepts and Promote Learning Skills

  • Kevin Patton. The A&P Professor. Accessed 5 September 2014.
  • Narrated video seminar with handout outlining my two-phase approach to helping A&P students succeed.

Pre-A&P Foundations in Science

  • Kevin Patton. Lion Den. Accessed 5 September 2014.
  • Peek at some course documents describing my course.  Includes a brief video "rationale" for such a course (used to recruit students).

A&P 1 Supplement

  • Kevin Patton. Lion Den. Accessed 5 September 2014.
  • Peek at some course documents describing my course.

Survival Guide for Anatomy & Physiology

  • Kevin Patton. Lion Den. Accessed 5 September 2014.
  • In case you haven't seen it yet, this is a short description of my handy student-success handbook.

Thanks Maureen Loomer at Wayne Community College for passing along the NPR story!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Help Your A&P Students Get Off to a Good Start

Your Brain on A&P

I recently posted an article in The A&P Student called Getting a Good Start in Your Anatomy & Physiology Course. In it, I run down a brief list of practical strategies students can employ from the start of their course to get a solid start in a rigorous course—a course that intimidates many beginners who are not fully prepared.

My suggested strategies are organized under three subheadings:

  • Learn to read and raid your textbook
  • Brush up on your study skills
  • Take A&P seriously

For each of these broad categories, I list several practical and proven tips for A&P students to get a handle on things early in the course.  All have links to more detailed and specific advice from various resources.

What can we use from this in teaching undergraduate A&P?

  • Early in your course, mention the importance of getting off to a good start—not waiting until the first test looms to get organized and begin working.
  • Link to the article in your syllabus and/or your course web page or LMS course shell.
  • QR code for the Getting a Good Start article
    • Consider putting an unlabeled QR code (shown) in your syllabus or on your classroom wall.  Many students will scan the code and find the article simply out of curiosity.  Just like a snare trap!
  • Have a link to the article ready to give to students who contact you about being overwhelmed with the rigor of your course.
  • Consider suggesting to your students that they subscribe to The A&P Student newsletter (delivered by email, FB, LinkedIn or Twitter).
    • Consider subscribing yourself—a great way to keep up with various tips and strategies you can pass on to your students.
  • Even if your course has already started it's not too late to share these strategies with your students!

Want to know more?

Getting a Good Start in Your Anatomy & Physiology Course

  • Kevin Patton The A&P Student 26 August 2014
  • Outlines several practical strategies to begin the anatomy and/or physiology course on solid footing.  Link to this article from your syllabus and/or course web page.

Subscription for The A&P Student

  • Choice of FREE delivery by email, Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn

A&P is the Foundation

  • Kevin Patton Lion Den Slide Collection
  • FREE animated PowerPoint slide you can use in your introductory course presentation.  The link takes you to information on accessing the entire collection.  Find this one in v2, Study Tips, AP-is-foundation
Download free slides, including this one, to use in your A&P course
Free animated slide

Monday, August 25, 2014

Use Eponyms with Style!

Paul Langerhans

I love eponyms!

I'm a bit sad that eponyms—terms that include a proper name—are going out of style in the world of human sciences, it seems.

The international lists of anatomic terminology recommend against most eponyms, providing descriptive terms in their place.  For example, pancreatic islet is the term  preferred to the eponym islet of Langerhans.  Osteon is preferred over haversian system.

Of course, I get that.  Descriptive terms are more intuitive and therefore easier to understand, learn, and remember. Related to that is that they are more accurate when it comes to medical applications.  And I'm all about accuracy in the medical professions.

It's just kind of fun using eponyms.  And kind of sad to feel like I am leaving behind all those wonderful women and men who discovered our parts way back when.

But it's not just the international lists of anatomy that are leaving eponyms behind—all the "authorities," including most A&P and medical textbooks are doing it. Professional societies, associations, and boards in the basic sciences and the health professions are doing it.  So if we want to be "in style" with our terminology—and more importantly, make sure our students are sporting the latest linguistic style—we'd better pay attention to the trends, eh?

Let me give you some unasked-for fashion tips if you want to be a stylish A&P professor:

Avoid eponyms

If there's an accepted descriptive term, it's best to use that rather than the eponym.

Be bilingual

Some folks you'll encounter are old-fashioned or possibly don't know the newer descriptive term.  Or they know both and use them interchangeably.  Because we're on the cusp of a fashion revolution here, the most competent professionals will know both and be able to switch back and forth easily as the context requires. The goal is to understand and be understood, right?

What to do if you have to use an eponym

Then use an eponym! There are some commonly used terms for which there really isn't a great descriptive term to replace an eponym.  For example, Parkinson disease, Alzheimer disease, and other disorders often don't have a widely accepted alternative. So absolute avoidance of eponyms is not (yet) possible.

Fashionable uses of eponyms

If you must use an eponym, the trendy folks at AMA and elsewhere avoid the use of possessive forms.  For example, notice how I used the term Parkinson disease above and not Parkinson's disease?  It's better to use Down syndrome than Down's syndrome—and even better to use trisomy 21 syndrome.

Likewise, the possessive loop of Henle is out of favor but using Henle loop may still get you into most of the trendy clubs.

Gabriele Falloppio
Illusory eponym styles

When you try to get away with using a possessive form of an eponym and yet still avoid arrest by the fashion police, you have to be very cunning.  Here's a common way that's done: use the adjective form of a proper name.  So if you want to honor Gabriele Falloppio's work in describing uterine tubes, then use his Latinized name (Fallopius) in the form of an adjective and call them Fallopian tubes.

But, you may say, that's not a very clever masking of the fact that it's an eponym. In fact, it's pretty obvious, right?  Well here's the sly part: cover it up by using a lowercase letter—thus obscuring the fact that it incorporates a proper noun. That's why many sources use fallopian tube instead of Fallopian tube.

Terms like eustachian tube and haversian canal may not seem like well-hidden eponyms in our context here, where we're actually focusing on eponyms. But most grand stage illusions—like Blackstone's making an elephant appear on stage from thin air—rely on such subtle misdirection.

So when you are using an adjective form of an eponym, it's best not to capitalize it and risk possible arrest by the fashion police.

Fashion rules are not really rules

With any fashion, the "rules" are not usually rules in the formal sense.  They are simple formulations of trends that, if heeded, will likely save you some embarrassment when you don't appear to be cool.  So if you have a good reason—or even a lame reason—to ignore these rules, I think you'll probably survive. People laugh (even hoot) at my disregard for current clothing fashion all the time—you get used to it.

OK, sometimes fashion rules really are rules

As with any professional communication, sometimes fashion rules get set in stone in a required style to which you must adhere in your work.  Sort of like a dress code for words. For example, students learn how to use professional styles when we require that they submit their assignments in APA, Chicago, or CBE style. Likewise, in publishing journal articles, books, and other works, there are rules established that provide consistency—and, therefore, also accuracy.  Each publisher, sometimes each journal or textbook, has it's own house style that defines such things. So if your journal editor insists on Eustachian tube instead of auditory tube or eustachian tube, then I recommend doing it.  Retro, in some contexts, can be cool.

What can we use from this in teaching undergraduate A&P?

  • By modeling current styles in the use of  scientific terminology, we teach an important lesson when learning any language—how it's actually used out there on the streets.
  • Consider taking a moment every once in a while to explain why the eponym your are using—or avoiding—is widely used.  Or why it's different than what they may be reading or hearing elsewhere. This may make them more likely to listen (and think) more carefully in their professional communications.
  • Consider using this information to explain why you want your students to know more than one alternate term—you are preparing them to be nimble in their clinical experiences and professional reading.
  • Many students aren't competent in using different possessive forms and perhaps don't even know what an eponym is.  Perhaps we can help them gain such competence.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Human Microbial System

A recent article in The Scientist once again reminds us of the ongoing explosion in the scientific understanding of the human microbial system.  In a few short years, this area of exploration has moved to the forefront of medical and basic science research in human biology.

I think it's becoming clear that the most useful way to think of human body function is to recognize that an "organism" is really a sort of "habitat."  And like any habitat, it functions best when all the inhabitants are within a limited range of balanced relationships.

Who are the inhabitants?  Besides our own cells?  Well, one could think of mitochondria and cilia and other organelles as symbiotic internal inhabitants of our cells.  They're not that literally, of course, but I think its a useful metaphor for understanding the human body.  Then there are the many microbes and animals that cover our internal and external surfaces, burrow into some of our pores and glands, and inhabit our body fluids.

I call the balanced functional relationship among the various microbomes of the body and our own tissues the human microbial system.  And I am certain that it won't be long before we will be discussing this system alongside the major organ systems of the body.  That is if we truly want to understand how the body really works.

The article in The Scientist I mention is a great summary of some of the major roles that the human microbial system plays in the human body—and a good survey of some of the areas of the body where the human-microbial functional relationships play out.  See the link to the article below.

What can we use from this in teaching undergraduate A&P?

  • Why not introduce the concept of the human microbial system at the beginning of our A&P course, when we set the stage by explain how scientists understand the body and its functions as an integrated system of different parts?
  • We can mention the different microbiomes of the body when we explore each organ system where they play an important role—which is pretty much all of them!
  • Consider discussing what happens to normal human function when microbiomes get out of balance.  For example, in the gut a microbial imbalance can lead to ulcers, diarrhea, and other dysfunctions.  On the skin a pathogenic microbe may become dominant and cause a rash.
  • Promote a discussion of what kinds of wellness strategies might be employed to prevent microbial imbalances.
  • Our students can leave our A&P course with an up-to-date understanding of human biology that will help them understand new clinical concepts and treatment strategies.

Want to Know More?

The Body’s Ecosystem

  • By The Scientist Staff.  The Scientist. August 1, 2014
  • Plain-English article (cited above) on how research on the human microbiome is booming, and scientists have moved from simply taking stock of gut flora to understanding the influence of microbes throughout the body.

Articles from The A&P Professor

Moving pictures of the human microbiome

  • J Gregory Caporaso et al. Genome Biology 2011, 12:R50  doi:10.1186/gb-2011-12-5-r50
  • Open-access journal article that includes FREE videos that show how dynamic the human microbial system is

Human Microbiome Project

The Microbiome and Disease

  • List of diseases associated with microbiome imbalances from Genetic Science Learning Center


  • Radio stories from National Public Radio on human microbiomes and their role in health and disease.  The growing number of these stories tells us something as A&P teachers: maybe we better be covering this!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Start A&P 1 with a Comprehensive Exam. Really.

A while back, I recommended starting the second semester of A&P 2 with an exam. In that article, I stated that it's a good opportunity to get everyone started on the right track—and on the same track—before jumping right back into it.

If you think about it, even the first semester of A&P is "jumping back into it."  That is, if we assume that our students have had some learning in biology already.  Don't we want them to already know at least a little bit about:
  • basic chemistry (like what an atom is)
  • cell biology (at least what a cell is and perhaps a few organelles)
  • scientific terminology (like what roots, prefixes, and suffixes are)
  • genetics (what a gene is, what DNA stands for, basic inheritance)
  • metric system (at least the basics)
  • main organs of the body (like what a muscle or stomach is)
Then why not start them off with an open-book online or take-home exam covering these topics?  Or more topics?  Or fewer?

By starting off with a low-pressure "open" exam, we accomplish several goals:

  • Students learn how we will be testing them.  
    • They'll become comfortable with the formats we use for test items, how our LMS quizzes work, how to fill out an exam book (or scan sheet or test paper), our personal quirks in testing, the depth and breadth of our assessments, and more.

  • They review-refresh-solidify their prior learning.  
    • The "review exam" is a learning experience in and of itself, making sure that students fill in any gaps that may have occurred since they last encountered these concepts—even if they finished their last bio course only a few weeks ago.

  • Solves the "we don't have a prerequisite for A&P" problem.  
    • Well, it doesn't completely solve it.  But it does put quite a dent in it.

  • Allows students to work at their own pace to catch up.
    • Some students will breeze through their review.  Others will wonder how they missed (or forgot) all these concepts.  Still others have challenges in learning, reading, remembering, using English, and more.  This will help even out the playing field, at least at the start of the game.

  • You won't have to wonder what they've learned before reaching you.
    • The review will ensure that they know the concepts you want them to know before they begin.  And which terminology you'll using.

  • Saves you time in your course.
    • By not having to stop and review basic concepts when your students stumble, you have more class time for learning activities.

  • Students will have less of that oppressive, overwhelming feeling of stress a few weeks into A&P.
    • Many students, especially returning learners, feel like they are drowning because of the pace and sheer volume of information in their A&P course.  But a review exam can get a lot of that "you should already know this"— "I should perhaps, but I don't"—stress out of the way from the get-go.

  • Gives students confidence as they face their new challenges in your course.
    • This one cannot be overstated.  Much of our success in learning comes from how confident we are in our preparedness and our abilities.  A review exam can be a positive learning experience that establishes a good attitude for learning from the beginning. And it won't be false confidence—they really will know the foundational concepts they need for success in A&P!

Want to Know More?

Start A&P 2 with a Final Exam

  • Kevin Patton. The A&P Professor.   21 Jan 2013
  • My previous article on using the first exam in the second semester of A&P to review, refresh, and solidify concepts from A&P 1.

Teaching as Testing
  • Kevin Patton. The Electronic Professor 27 Feb 2009
  • Article outlining my use of randomized online testing as a mechanism of needed practice.  Includes links to a full video presentation.

Practice. Practice. Practice.
  • Kevin Patton. Lion Tamers Guide to Teaching 3 Dec 2010
  • Article on the role of practice in teaching and learning, using the analogy of taming lions.
Image credit: kelvinsong

Monday, August 4, 2014

Forensic Anthropologist Clyde Snow Passes

I just learned that the renowned forensic anthropologist Clyde Snow passed away this past May at the age of 86.

Famous for identifying the remains of Nazi war criminal Josef Mengele and victims of mass murderer John Wayne Gacy, Snow was one of a generation of pioneers who sparked the current popular interest in forensic sciences.

What can we use from this in teaching undergraduate A&P?  Some of stories of his achievements (see links below) can help spark interest in studying the human skeleton and other systems.  And some of his familiar quotes are worth using in the lab or classroom:

  • "There are 206 bones and 32 teeth in the human body, and each has a story to tell."
  • "Bones can be puzzles, but they never lie, and they don't smell bad."
  • "The ground is like a beautiful woman—if you treat her gently, she'll tell you all her secrets."
  • "If you can make people feel they're not going to get away with it—that's all we're asking." (regarding using forensic science to solve crimes)

Want to know more?

Clyde Snow, forensic anthropologist who helped ID victims of John Wayne Gacy, dies at 86
  • M. Weil Washington Post May 18, 2014
  • Article summarizing Snow's work, including several stories that could be used in an A&P class discussion.

Science Detectives: The Masters Case
  • Discovery Channel January 22, 1997
  • Reenactment of forensic fieldwork in a killing that occurred decades before the victim's bones were discovered.

Image credit: Toony

Monday, July 28, 2014

Syllabus Resources for A&P

Fall is the traditional start of the academic year, so as we approach that mark it may be a good time to think about ways to tweak our course syllabus in ways that may promote student success.  There are some "teaching moments" in a syllabus that we don't want to miss!

I have few suggestions for you to consider.


Experts call it excessive cognitive load and I say it's just plain rude to put all your policies, procedures, advice, and explanations in one or two big lumps, then expect students to actually read it and be familiar with the contents.

Go ahead and get it all down there—then chunk it by dividing it up into short sections, each with a short, descriptive heading.  Next, rearrange all your newly chunked sections into logical groupings with a short descriptive heading.  Now students will more likely read through it all, comprehend it better, and be more likely to refer to the syllabus before emailing you with their questions that can easily be answered by the syllabus.


We often blame it on which generation's pesonality they are ruled by—X, Y, millenial, baby-boomer—but I think it's just human nature to miss deadlines when you are unaware of the effects of doing that.

A syllabus is a good place to establish deadlines in a course, of course, but it's also a great place to briefly explain why deadlines are important.  You may want to get some ideas from this brief article—or simply link to the article from your syllabus:

Academic Integrity

The most effective deterrent against academic dishonesty—cheating—is to promote a culture of honesty in your course.  The syllabus is a great way to get that on the right footing at the outset.  Here's an example from one of my syllabi, in a chunked section titled Academic Integrity:
This course relies on the principle that all who participate will do so with the honesty befitting adult, professional studies.  Without integrity of all students, the integrity of the course, this school, and your own credentials all suffer. This means that all students are expected to submit only their own work, whether for assignments, papers, online tests or quizzes, in-class tests or quizzes, or any other component of this course.  Thus, students may not receive inappropriate help nor give inappropriate help to other students.
 SCC academic integrity policies outlined in the Student Handbook and other documents stipulate a variety of possible outcomes of violation of principles of basic academic integrity.  
In this course, receiving or giving inappropriate help in online tests, in-class exams, or assignments will ordinarily result in receiving "F" for the course.  Inappropriate help may include having someone do all or part of the work for you, providing or receiving copies of current in-class exam items or answers to in-class exam items, and copying someone else's work and submitting it as your own.  
Students who witness or have reason to suspect violations of academic integrity in this course and do not report it promptly, thus further enabling the dishonesty, will themselves also be subject to disciplinary action.
I strongly suggest that you read the brief article Why be honest?
Feel free to adapt this (perhaps shorten it a bit?) for your own syllabus.  Or use this link— —in your syllabus to simply send them directly to an article that explains it all.

Handcrafted Uniqueness

This is kind of silly—but that's the point.  I always include something like this in each and every syllabus:
Minor imperfections further enhance the  handcrafted uniqueness of this document.
It's a joke, right?  Well, sort of.  It's actually true, and so it is fair warning that there are bound to be mistakes in my syllabus. But it's also lighthearted enough to set the light, informal tone that improves student engagement and openness to a new instructor and a new course.

For more ideas like this, check out Professors are from Mars, Students are from Snickers: How to Write and Deliver Humor in the Classroom and in Professional Presentations by Ronald A. Berk (Stylus Publishing, 2003)


Students in the anatomy and physiology course are likely to learn more new "foreign" words than they would in a beginning Spanish, French, or German course.  So it's important to set that fact out there early, so that students can get a handle on that aspect of A&P from the get-go.

Besides a brief statement about the need to learn a new language in the syllabus, I've found it helpful to link to (or embed) these resources:

Spelling is Important

Your peritoneum is not your perineum, right?  And in a medical chart, that could get through all the checks and alerts even in today's "smart" electronic environment.  I, for one, am not willing to put my life—or my perineum—in the hands of a medical spell-checker.  So it's important that A&P students learn that an incorrectly spelled term term is an incorrect term.

I suggest spelling that out (pardon the pun) in the course syllabus.  Because not all instructors "take off for spelling," it may unnecessarily shock your students when misspelled terms are not accepted at all in A&P. If they know ahead of time that correct spelling of scientific terms is part of the course, they'll be more accepting of the idea and—even better—prepared for it.

Consider adding a link to the article Is Spelling Important? to your syllabus:

Renting or Borrowing Books

You may have trouble buying this one, I realize, but I can't tell you how many of my former A&P students have sold back their A&P textbook, or returned their rented book, or lent it out on permanent loan to a friend or relative.  And then regretted it.  Why? Because they need it for their health professions courses—and even in their jobs.  A good A&P textbook is not just a learning tool for use in the A&P course, it's a valuable addition to their own professional reference library.

I usually add a phrase like this to the list of required books and manuals for my courses:
Don't rent your A&P text book!  Click here for the reasons.
And don't sell it back at the end of the course. Here's why.
Here are the URLs if you want to use a similar approach—and save some students a bit of heartache when they realize they've lost a valuable resource they'll need later:
Rental URL
Sell-back URL

You may not agree with this approach.  Or perhaps your school rents or lends textbooks to all students and you can't officially go against that in your syllabus.  But it's an idea worth considering if you have the latitude to advise your students in this manner—and the insight to see the value of such advice.

The A&P Student

Lastly, there are a lot of A&P-specific study tips, tools, and advice available FREE for your students at my blog for students called The A&P Student.
  • Use this URL to link to it from your syllabus or course site: 
  • If your learning management system allows for an RSS feed in your course, why not add this one?
  • If you want some FREE bookmarks for your students with the URL for the resource, click here. 

Photo credit: Handcraft